Jardins Botaniques du Grand Nancy et de l'Université de Lorraine

Arid environments

Arid environments


This greenhouse presents the vegetation from arid tropical regions that are commonly known – often wrongly – as “deserts”.
Here you’ll see plants that have adapted to extreme living conditions: a lack of water, hot sunshine, violent winds and significant variations in temperature. On your visit you’ll walk past impressive cactuses, large euphorbia and other plants less well-known but just as spectacular.
You’ll also see examples here of “evolutionary convergence”: in identical conditions, different plants tend to adopter similar shapes. For example, cactuses, euphorbia cactiformis and didiereaceae, which are very distant families in terms of evolution and geography, resemble each other. The same convergence phenomenon can also be seen between the American agaves and the African aloe.

Plants from arid environments in America

 This border was totally redesigned in 2013. After replacing the soil and bringing in new rocks, over 140 new species were planted. Some are unusual, such as the creeping and hanging cactuses. Others illustrate the huge diversity of Crassulaceae, Agaves, Bromeliaceae, Oxalis, succulent Peperomia and many other prickly plants.
Alongside these new species, impressive specimens such as the “club cactus” have been kept.

Plants from the arid regions of Africa and Madagascar

 Also recently renovated (2014), this border has also been laid with new rocks in which a red area symbolizes Madagascar. Here you’ll find euphorbia, aloe and other rare species. Among these remarkable plants are:
-    a Welwitschia mirabilis: a strange plant that comes from the deserts of Namibia and Angola, made up of two long, stringy leaves. This species can live for 2000 years in its natural environment!
-    a baobab: Madagascar’s iconic tree. But the limited size of the greenhouse and the tree’s young age mean that we can’t show visitors a trunk as impressive as the ones you can find in nature.
-     Didiereaceae (octopus plants), endemic to Madagascar, with their surprising alignments of small leaves and thorns.
-    Viviparous kalanchoes, which produce a large number of young plants on each leaf and quickly form dense colonies.

Plants from Macaronesia

 This display presents plants from Madeira, Cape Verde and the Canaries. These particularly arid islands have very distinctive vegetation, including many “caulescent” species. A large number of plants with prostrate rosettes growing at the top of a long stalk are found on these archipelagos. These include the Aeonium which looks like our houseleeks… on stalks. A number of well-known plants may be found alongside them, such as campanula, plantain and Artemisia, which have developed this strange bush shape.


This display presents the Lithops and similar genuses, also known as “pebble plants”. Their fleshy pairs of leaves act as a water supply. They look very similar to rocks, which is a good way of making yourself invisible to herbivores… They flower in the autumn in France, when it’s the spring in the southern regions!

Pachycaul and caudex plants

 Many plants from varied families develop large stalks filled with water (pachycauls), or caudices, large swellings at the base of the leaves. This final display presents an interesting range of demonstrations of “evolutionary convergence” in the face of drought.

Plants from the Yemen and Arabia

The Arabian Peninsula is mainly made up of a great sand desert. A real one this time, in which there are virtually no plants, except on the coast. We have dedicated a border to this interesting diversity of drought-resistant plants.  Here you’ll find some fine specimens of euphorbia, such as the impressive Euphorbia ammak, and some endemic Aloe.