Vailima Botanical Gardens

Name of case study

 Vailima Botanical Gardens


Apia, Samoa


 ~1920, 2022.


Neighbourhood scale

Area / size

12 hectares

NbS employed

Botanical gardens; medicinal gardens

Type of NbS

Created or constructed living ecosystems


Robert Louis Stevenson and The Samoa Conservation Society; Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment


UK High Commission in Samoa; Botanical Gardens Conservation International



Design group

The Samoa Conservation Society; Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; Botanical Gardens Conservation International

The Art Whistler Memorial Garden, Vailima Botanical Gardens, Samoa. Photo: Junior S Ami.
A conservation billboard describing the collection of medicinal plants in the Botanical Gardens, Vailima Botanical Gardens, Samoa, 2023. Photo: Mary Jane Walker.
Climate change benefits


Societal / socio-cultural benefits


Ecological benefits


Summary of case study

Robert Louis Stevenson’s mansion Vailima was converted into a museum set within botanical gardens. The Vailima Botanical Garden (VBG) protects a variety of species – native, introduced and naturalised representative of the flora of the archipelago and the Pacific basin. The VBG Masterplan was developed in late 2021 and work began in 2022 to establish the first zone which includes a rare and threatened native plants garden, medicinal plants garden and butterfly plants garden. 

While the Vailima Botanical Gardens in Samoa primarily serve as a botanical garden, sections dedicated to rare and threatened (The Art Whistler Memorial Garden), and medicinal plants are present (Smith, 2023). The medicinal plants garden holds at least 15 of Samoa’s traditional medicinal plant species, including the ‘matalafi’(Psychotria insularum) which has similar anti-inflammatory activity as ibuprofen. There are more than 70 known medicinal plants which have been used in traditional Samoan medicine since prehistoric times (Harrington, 2001). The garden features a curated collection of these, reflecting Samoa’s rich cultural heritage and Indigenous knowledge of herbal medicine. 

The medicinal gardens offers people an opportunity to learn about the therapeutic uses of native plants, as well as their cultural significance in Samoan society. Interpretive signage and guided tours provide insights into traditional healing practices, including methods of preparation and administration of herbal remedies.

In addition to serving as educational and cultural resources, the medicinal gardens at Vailima Botanical Gardens also contribute to biodiversity conservation and sustainable land management. By promoting the cultivation and preservation of medicinal plants, these gardens play a role in safeguarding Samoa’s natural heritage and traditional knowledge for future generations.

Read More
Vailima Botanical Gardens, Samoa. Photo: Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
  • Harrington, M. T. (2001). Samoan medicinal plants and their usage. Agricultural Development in the American Pacific Project.
  • Smith, P. P. (2023). Creating Communities of Practice for Plant Conservation and Catalyzing Action. In Pullaiah, T. & Galbraith, D.A. Botanical Gardens and Their Role in Plant Conservation (pp. 25-40). CRC Press.

Further resources:

<< Botanical Gardens << Medicinal gardens