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Visiting the Arboretum Lussich, near Punta Ballena, Uruguay: remembering a distinguished, Uruguayan arboriculturist

Updated on May 2, 2015
Flag of Uruguay
Flag of Uruguay | Source
Arboretum Lussich, near Punta Ballena, Maldonado Department, Uruguay.
Arboretum Lussich, near Punta Ballena, Maldonado Department, Uruguay. | Source
Antonio Lussich (1848 - 1928)
Antonio Lussich (1848 - 1928) | Source
Map location of Maldonado department, Uruguay
Map location of Maldonado department, Uruguay | Source

Fighting, sailing, writing and planting trees

This arboretum was the brainchild of don Antonio Lussich Griffo (1848-1928)(1), a Uruguayan arboriculturist who was also distinguished in various other avenues. It is situated near Punta Ballena and the town of Maldonado, in Maldonado department.

Don Antonio lived during a sometimes tumultuous in Uruguayan history. He pursued several careers. In his youth, he fought for Timoteo Saravia, leader of the Blanco party, in the intermittent Uruguayan Civil War (2). For many years he was involved in his family shipping business.

He was also a writer, both on subjects relating to rural Uruguayan life and maritime issues also and was notably the author of the work: 'Los tres gauchos orientales' (The three oriental [i.e., Uruguayan] gauchos), regarded by Jorge Luis Borges as an important precursor of the work 'Martín Fierro' by the more well known José Hernández.

From 1896 onwards don Antonio developed land which he bought near Punta Ballena, and on 192 hectares of this land an arboretum gradually took shape. Don Antonio used his many overseas contacts from his family shipping business to obtain seeds of trees, which were then planted in the arboretum. In Uruguay, the pine and the eucalyptus are very common, and Arboretum Lussich has no less than 20 species of pine and 45 species of eucalyptus. At the arboretum there are more than 400 exotic species of tree, and more than 70 Uruguayan ones.

From 1917 onward, don Antonio relinquished his other business interests to concentrate on his work on the arboretum, until his death in 1928.

In 1979 the arboretum was gifted to the Maldonado municipality, and, being open to the public, is a significant visitor attraction.

The arboretum complex includes an absorbing museum with various artistic and historical artifacts which demonstrate the development of the site and of don Antonio's place in Uruguayan history. This museum I found to be especially absorbing: again and again, people and historical events of Uruguay which had been the subject of some wide reading on my part were featured in the many exhibits in the museum.


(1) Lussich Cove on Admiralty Island, in the South Shetland Islands is named for don Antonio Lussich.

(2) This Civil War lasted from the 1830s until 1904, in some ways pitting rural interests against urban, liberal forces, although the reality was often far more complex than this.

Also worth seeing

The Maldonado department has many visitor attractions; these include: Punta Ballena, with its whale-watching and Casapueblo museum; resorts Punta del Este and Piriápolis; Piria Castle and the Sugarloaf Hill; scenic Laguna del Sauce; San Carlos, with its colonial-era architecture.


How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Mainly seasonal flights from Buenos Aires also operate to Laguna del Sauce International Airport, which principally serves the nearby Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este . For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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