Conifers from all around the world

Aims of the Arboretum
Thujopsis dolabrata
- leaves, lower side
Access to Photo Gallery
© Arboretum de Villardebelle
to help the conservation of endangered species.
  • scientific
  • to study the environmental requirements of most species and to have at hand a wide choice of material.
  • educational
  • to reveal the diversity of the conifers.
  • aesthetic
  • to build a green cathedral.
  • environmental
  • to protect the soil from erosion.
  • experimental
  • to enlarge the choice of valuable species to be planted in the region.
    That is the rational thinking,
    but above all there is the simple pleasure
    to create with the help of nature in its greatest diversity
    and to feel like part of it.

    Map of western Europe


    The Arboretum de Villardebelle is located in the South-West of France, in the "Departement de l'Aude" (near Limoux, near Carcassonne).
    Latitude : 43°01' N; longitude : 2°23' E.
    Altitude : between 510 and 670 m.
    Distance to the sea : 53 km.
    Size : about 6 hectares (14 acres) in four different places (and is increasing).
    Hardiness zone : 8b (with the absolute minimal t° since 1993 being -10.4° Celsius [13.3° F]).
    Heat zone : 3 (average number of days per year during which the temperature is superior to 30° C [86° F] : 10.7 [period 1993-1998]).
    Average annual rainfall (1972-1997) : 1'074 mm (about 42 inches).
    Landscape : hills. There are many microclimatic conditions due to the different slopes and exposures to sun and winds.
    Sunset on Villardebelle Geology : in Villardebelle, the rocks are from Devonian (usually : limestone) and Carboniferous (usually : schists) ages. In the Arboretum, rocks are mainly limestone, but not exclusively. The geology of the region (Pyrénées) is a true puzzle, also because there are many inclusive rocks. Investigations are still under way.
    Soil pH : Measures effectuated in the different fields of the Arboretum show a wide range of pH from as low as 4.1 to as high as 8.5.

    Meteorological data

    Averages : data 1970-1997
    Absolute yearly minimal temperature : average 1970-1997 -8.7° C [16.3° F]
    Absolute january minimal temperature : average 1970-1997 -7.5° C [18.5° F]
    Mean january minimal temperature : average 1970-1997 0.3° C [32.5° F]
    Average number of days max. temperature < 0° C [< 32° F] 2.6
    Average number of days min. temperature < 0° C [< 32° F] 62.8
    Average number of days min. temperature < -5° C [< 23° F] 9.8
    Average number of days min. temperature < -10° C [< 14° F] 0.9

    Main natural vegetation is :
    Quercus ilex, and other deciduous Quercus sp., Fraxinus excelsior, Acer monspessulanum, Prunus spinosa, Corylus avellana, Crataegus monogyna, Buxus sempervirens, Ilex aequifolium, Genista sp., Cupressus sempervirens, Juniperus communis, Prunus avium and Pterydium aquilinum.

    Main trees planted for timber in the surroundings are :
    Fagus sylvatica, Quercus sp., Pseudotsuga menziesii, Pinus nigra laricio or calabrica, Cedrus atlantica, Pinus sylvestris, Picea sitchensis. A plantation of Abies grandis died when 30 years old.

    Juniperus occidentalis Juniperus occidentalis - © Alfred Brousseau

    The arboretum (created since 1994-95) is mainly dedicated to conifers with today more than 190 different species or subspecies of Gymnosperms (quite a few cultivars are not being taken in that count). A third hundred is waiting in the nursery. Fast growing species : Sequoia sempervirens, Metasequoia, Cryptomeria, Cupressus torulosa.

    Pest and diseases : so far only one major pest attacking pine needles, Thaumetopoea pityocampa.

    June 2000