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13 Apr 2010

Plant life theme park opens in France
BY Martin Nash



Almost exactly 12 years after the idea was originally mooted, the first theme park in Europe devoted to plant life has opened near Angers in France's north western Anjou region.

Terra Botanica is an €83m (£73m, US$113m) edutainment concept inviting visitors to discover the world of plant life - be it symbolic, historic, geographic, economic, scientific or aesthetic - through a series of displays, animated sets and interactive attractions set in four themed areas - Coveted Plants, Generous Plants, Mysterious Plants and Tamed Plants.

Coveted Plants sees visitors moving from island to island and criss-crossing continents in the 18th century, in search of spices, plants and exotic territories in the hope of uncovering botanical treasures. Generous Plants explores the heritage of the Anjou area in which the park is situated and examines the different roles which flowers and plants play in everyday life.

Mysterious Plants investigates the hidden side of plants, examining their DNA, plant reproduction, pollination, history and origins and featuring a 4D 'Journey to the centre of the plant' presentation which follows the journey of two water droplets travelling from the roots of a tree through to its leaves.

Finally, Tamed Plants involves visitors in the world of horticulture and landscaping, with a giant glasshouse replicating the climates of hot, cold, humid and dry to show how plants evolve and adapt.

Designed by Thierry Hau, director of design consultancy Interscene, the site - upon which construction began in February 2008 - covers a total area of 17 hectares, of which six of the 11 hectares open to visitors are gardens and landscaped areas and two are aquatic areas. Owned by Maine-et-Loire Departmental Council, it will be managed by Société Anonyme d'Exploitation Mixte Locale (SAEML) Terra Botanica, a public-private partnership of 15 shareholders.

There are 275,000 plants in the park, including more than 1,000 trees described as 'remarkable' and 400 items considered to be 'exceptional' due to their size or age.

Facilities include a shop and a number of different food and drink outlets. A business centre is due to open in May.

It has been calculated that the opening of the park - originally suggested by the then president of the Maine-et-Loire Departmental Council and President of the Departmental Committee of Tourism - will have a knock-on effect to the local economy of around €8m and support 30 permanent and 50 seasonal jobs.

Pic: Les terrasses de Méditerranée


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