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).
    Altitude : between 510 and 670 m.
    Distance to the sea : 53 km.
    Hardiness zone : 8b (with the absolute minimal t° since 1993 being -12.6° Celsius).
    Heat zone : 3 (average number of days per year during which the temperature is superior to 30° C  : 10.7 [period 1993-1998]).
    Average annual rainfall (1972-1997) : 1'074 mm.
    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
    Absolute january minimal temperature : average 1970-1997 -7.5° C
    Mean january minimal temperature : average 1970-1997 0.3° C
    Average number of days max. temperature < 0° C] 2.6
    Average number of days min. temperature < 0° C 62.8
    Average number of days min. temperature < -5° C 9.8
    Average number of days min. temperature < -10° C 0.9

    Main natural vegetation is :
    Quercus ilex, Quercus pubescens, Fraxinus excelsior, Acer monspessulanum, Prunus spinosa, Corylus avellana, Fagus sylvatica, Crataegus monogyna, Cytisus scoparius, Euonymus europaeus, Rosa canina, Rubus fructicosa, Castanea sativa, Mespilus germanica, Buxus sempervirens, Ilex aequifolium, Juniperus communis, Clematis vitalba, Lonicera periclymenum, Genista scorpius, 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 dedicated to conifers with today more than 250 different species or subspecies of Gymnosperms (quite a few cultivars are not being taken in that count). Fast growing species : Sequoia sempervirens, Metasequoia, Cryptomeria, Cupressus lusitanica.

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

    June 2000 - September 2009