By Kristin Mock
When I imagine the Jardí Botànic in the city of Valencia, I can’t help but remember the hippocrepis. Hippocrepis, after all, is a relatively important plant: is the sole food a particular breed of blue butterfly, a Valencian breed who noshes solely on its little fingernail-sized yellow flowers. Its importance, though, spans further than that: It is also the exact same word in Spanish, English, Italian, and Valencian. For a college student who could barely get past the present tense verbs she’d been learning in both Spanish and Valencian, I couldn’t get enough cognates—especially ones, I’ll admit, with a delightful prefix like “hippo.”
The Jardí Botànic in Valencia has a fascinating history. Founded in 1567 by the Universitat di Valencia to teach students about the mysterious medicinal properties of plants, fell to ruins by the 20th century. In the 1980s, though, the university, in a burst of sustainability initiatives, commenced a series of restoration projects and had nearly restored the gardens to their medieval beginnings by the early 2000’s.
Today, they are home to the university’s research facility for plant diversity, conservation, and rehabilitation of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful flora and fauna, and they are a playground for those who love the respite of gardens. And in the fall—they’re beautiful.
This fall and winter, the gardens are offering a wealth of activities, ranging from outings, presentations, educational courses and seminars, and a host of fall-inspired exhibits. Whatever your interest, a stroll through the gardens is a must-do. As I’m neither a botanist nor a medical student, I’ve never gone to gardens with the hopes of discovering a medicinal miracle; on the contrary, I’m the type who swoons for aesthetics.
A delicately arched orchid with a cream-colored center and purple tips whets my appetite more than understanding the uncharted opportunities a plant might afford the local medical community ever could. Luckily, for those of you who fawn over pretty flowers like me, the Jardí Botànic is offering a good dose of both the pretty and the educational this season—and you’re free to choose which version you’d like. If you’re like me, though, try keeping this in mind as you wander through the more than 4,000 species living there: as Walt Whitman once said, you don’t need to know exactly, or the reasons why. Nature, after all, transcends all vocabulary words.
**Admission to the gardens runs just two euros—less if you’re student from the local university (Universitat di Valencia) or if you’re traveling in a large group. They also offer audio services in Valenciano, Spanish, and English for three euros if guided tours are your kind of must-do. The gardens are just outside the city walls near the Convent of San Sebastián at Calle Quart, 80, E-46008, Valencia. You can find their trilingual webpage at http://www.jardibotanic.org/
Kristin Mock is an award-winning teacher, writer, and editor with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Arizona. In addition to working as the Nonfiction Editor for The Sonora Review, her travel writing has been featured in publications such as The Vacation Gals and BootsNAll. She was a finalist in the DZANC International Literary Competition (2010), and she has received accolades for both her teaching and her writing. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree in Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English as well as working on her first book, a travel memoir. She can be reached at http://www.kristinmock.com.