Emile De Wildeman

Emile De Wildeman

Emile De Wildeman had a career of forty years (1891-1931) at the National Botanic Garden. He was the third director (1912-1931), and is well-known for bringing tropical African botany to flourishment at the Garden.

His talents were manifold. He never travelled in Africa but convinced many others to explore the continent. As a result the African herbarium of the herbarium of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium was much enriched, enabling him to catalogue thousands of vascular plant species of central Africa. Among those more than 1000 species were named and described by himself - in an extensive literature survey of the species concept, he argued that the 'jordanian' definition was useful to make a first survey of the botanical diversity of the tropics.

But he also studied the flora of Belgium and the phanerogams of the Magellan area. He had skills in phycology - the first domain of botany he practicised - and was interested in medicinal plants and economic botany. In 1979 the National Botanic Garden acquired a pencil drawing (1892) which was the largest piece of his own artwork that decorated the walls of his house. It illustrates his artistic skills; two note books with drawings and more than thousand of his drawings are conserved in the Royal Library Albert I in Brussels.

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