At the beginning of the XX century, the Portuguese Government decided to create an area that would contain all the vegetable species that best represented the countries which made up their colonies. The Quinta da Calheta and the gardens adjoining the Belém Palace were chosen to house this collection, and it became known as the Jardim Museu Tropical.
Quinta House became the Museum, and spices, oils and fine woods were brought to it, the traditional produce of Mozambique, Macao and Brazil. The garden was given over to plants that came from a variety of tropical and subtropical regions around the world, with a view to testing their hardiness. Any already existing plants that were notable for their beauty or botanical interest, were also nurtured.