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Author photo. Bust of Pierre Poivre in the Pamplemousses gardens in Mauritius.

Bust of Pierre Poivre in the Pamplemousses gardens in Mauritius.

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He helped make several spices available to the common man, by stealing the spice trees from the Dutch East Indies company, and relocating them on other islands that could support their growth. He was considered a character not unlike Robin Hood, until history forgot him.
Pierre Poivre (23 August 1719 – 6 January 1786) was a French horticulturalist born in Lyon; missionary to China and Cochinchina, Intendant of the Islands of Mauritius and Bourbon, and wearer of the cordon of St. Michel.[1] Poivre was an uncle to renowned French naturalist Pierre Sonnerat (1748-1814).

In his early 20s he was a missionary in Far Eastern locations such as Cochinchina, Guangzhou and Macau. In 1745 as member of the French East India Company, on a journey to the East Indies he was involved in a naval battle with the British when he was struck by a cannonball on the wrist. This injury required amputation of part of his right arm.

In the 1760s, Poivre became administrator of Ile de France (Mauritius) and Ile Bourbon (Réunion) in the Indian Ocean. He is famous for the construction of a botanical garden on Mauritius which consisted of trees, shrubs and plants from tropical sites worldwide and where he was succeeded as Director by Jean-Nicolas Céré. He is especially known for introduction of spice plants such as clove and nutmeg to Mauritius and Reunion. During this period of time the Dutch had a virtual monopoly on these spices in the East Indies. In order to obtain these spices, Poivre had to organize clandestine smuggling forays to obtain plants and seeds from the Indies; the expeditions to obtain the species were conducted in 1769-1770.[2] Poivre also was responsible for introducing these spice plants to the Seychelles.
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