SPLENDOR OF MEXICAN PREHISPANIC GARDENS
The rulers of ancient Mexico kept magnificent gardens where aromatic herbs, medicinal plants, vegetables, trees and flowers were grown. Those gardens were designed for the pleasure of the elite, who enjoyed beautiful sights and the scent of flowers. The royal gardens were known as palace of flowers xochiteipancalli while popular gardens were known as xochichinacali house of flowers. Among the most famous prehispanic gardens were those of prince Moctezuma in Chapultepec (Mexico City) and Huaxtepec (today Oaxtepec, State of Morelos); those of Cuitláhuac Señor of Iztapalapa (Mexico City) and those of king Nezahualcóyotl in Cerro de Tezcutzinco (Texcoco, State of Mexico). The unique floating gardens known as chinampas were located around the Lake Texcoco, which in the XVI century consisted of five large lagoons. The Nahuas (Mexicas) settled on the southern shore between 1350-1400, and obtained permission from the king of Azcapotzalco to establish plantations of vegetables and flowers. In exchange, they had to pay a tribute in products to the king. To utilize the shallow lagoon´s surface the Nahuas developed an innovative technique to prepare beds (islands) for plant cultivation. The chinamitl (chinampas) were built on a structure of willow tree reeds (Salix bonplandiana H.B.K.) whose root systems strengthened the border of the bed. Under cultivation were corn, beans, amaranth (huautli), squash, chili, tomatoes and aromatic flowers. Most Mexican prehispanic gardens have disappeared but a few continue the rich tradition. For example, the Xochimilco chinampas, considered the birth place of Mexican horticulture are now undergoing rescue and conservation efforts. The main aim of this paper is to present the past glory and current situation of the gardens of Iztapalapa, Chapultepec, Huaxtepec, Tezcutzinco and the Xochimilco chinampas. Also, the existing evidence on the horticultural use of plants, their ambient architecture and landscaping at time of conquest and the afterward flood of newcomers.
Leszczyńska-Borys, H. and Borys, M.W. (2010). SPLENDOR OF MEXICAN PREHISPANIC GARDENS. Acta Hortic. 881, 891-898
Tezcutzinco, Chapultepec, Iztapalapa, Xochimilco, chinampas, species