Louis Van Houtte (1810-1876)

Louis Van Houtte

Louis Van Houtte was born near Ieper (Ypres) in 1810. He studied in a field related to economics in France and worked there for a while. During the Belgian Revolution of 1830 he fought the troops sent by the Kings of the Netherlands to defeat the mutineers in Brussels. On this occasion, Van Houtte met Charles Rogier who soon became secretary of state. He worked with him for a short while spending time at the Brussels botanical garden whenever it was possible. Later, it was said that he was unable to adapt to the administrative way of life and that plants were his main interest. He is supposed to have created a nursery in Brussels before 1834, the very year he left the country to collect rare plants for a rich amateur and for the Brussels’ Botanic Garden, which was a commercial company by then. A bit earlier, Van Houtte had created the first Belgian horticultural magazine entitled L’Horticulteur Belge (1833-1838).

From 1830 on, the Brussels’ botanic garden was facing financial difficulties. That is why the board asked Van Houtte to come back from Brazil and boost the commercial activities of the company. He tried his best for a mere two years and decided to leave without a word in 1838. During that very short period he was regarded as the director of the Brussels’ botanic garden although he never tended to launch any scientific program.

Free again, Van Houtte created his own company in Gendbrugge (near Ghent) and became famous as a horticulturist, a publisher of luxuous horticultural magazine (Flore des serres et des jardins de l’Europe) and the founder of a horticultural school (1849). He even became the city mayor of Gendbrugge. Let us mention the fact he established the genus Rogiera (Rubiaceae) after his old friend and minister who helped him more than once during his long career. When he died in 1876 he was one of the most renowned nurseryman of Europe.

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