It stands in the Square René-Viviani–Montebello, alongside the even more ancient Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre church (and opposite Notre Dame). Unlike the Toronto tree – which apparently was once part of the original forest in the northern part of the city – this tree was a deliberate introduction from another part of the world. This is its story.
Like much of Europe, the Paris region was once a great forest. By the middle ages though, many of the forests had been cleared, and Paris was very much a managed environment. It is difficult to say what flora was around at the beginning of the 16th century, but we do know that the King’s gardener, Jean Robin, planted some seeds in in the city in 1601. Imported firstly from the United States and then England, these seeds were from a species that would eventually take his name, the Robinia pseudoacacia.
As well as in the Square René-Viviani–Montebello, another tree grew on the Ile de la Cité, approximately where the Place Dauphine is today. Although this tree did not live for long, it did produce some cuttings, one of which was planted by Jean Robin’s son, Vespasien (a name more commonly associated with public toilets in Paris!) in 1636 in the Jardin des Plantes. This tree has also since died, but an offspring does still stand in the gardens today, making it probably the second oldest tree in the city.