Art in the Trees at the Marcel Kroënlein Arboretum
Tucked into the mountains north of Nice, next to Roure’s charming village, sits an arboretum unique in the world. It mixes exotic trees, rare flowers, and “no-made” art in a mountain park overlooking the wild Tinel Valley—a perfect day trip for nature lovers and art enthusiasts alike.
The Marcel Kroënlein Arboretum was founded in 1988 by Michèle Ramin and botanist Marcel Kroëlein—then the director of the Exotic Garden of Monaco—and today is run by the noted landscape architect Jean Mus. It stretches over 17 hectares along the flank of a mountain, rising from an elevation of 1300m to 1700m and creating “a green cathedral.”
Protecting Rare Flora
The arboretum’s primary mission is the protection of rare and threatened mountain trees from around the world. Specimens of over 130 different varieties have been planted in the arboretum, with more added every year. These include a wide range of conifers and deciduous trees, and mountain fruit trees like the wild cherry.
The arboretum is also home to many mountain flowers, like the Alpine Violet and the Rosa Gallica—the only rose protected by French law. And it has assembled a complete collection of the wild roses of the Alpes Maritime region, a feat which garnered it the prestigious Henry Ford Environmental Award.
Nature as Artist
Besides the protection of flora, the arboretum’s mission is to serve as a place of artistic expression. Every year, artists worldwide gather to display their Land Art among the trees and turn it over to the elements. The forces of nature refashion these pieces over time, as each is sculpted by the sun, wind, rain, and snow.
The arboretum hosts events throughout the year, like concerts and expositions and the always popular Nature, Art, and Gastronomy. And it regularly sponsors nature outings with schools in the region as part of its scientific mission.
The arboretum has several notable sponsors, including Prince Albert of Monaco and the city of Nice. An elite science committee advises it on botanical questions. The French government has recognized the arboretum as a Jardin Remarquable (remarkable garden) and Tourisme et Handicap (suitable for those with physical limitations).
If you are looking for an unusual mountain experience not far from the sunny Mediterranean coastline, a trip to the Arboretum Marcel Kroënlein might be just the ticket.
Marcel Kroënlein Arboretum (website)
Hours: Open daily 10 am to 6 pm
Entry fee: 5 euros for adults (kids are free)