Botanic Garden Meise


Research on the flora of Belgium and Europe

Researchers: I. Hoste, A. Ronse, F. Van Rossum, F. Verloove

The Garden has always played a major role in the coordination of floristic research in Belgium and Europe. The participation in the publication of a distribution atlas of the flora of Belgium and Luxembourg, long before the same type of works appeared in other European countries, was a culminating point. The 'Nouvelle Flore de Belgique / Flora van België' was written by external authors but published with editorial help in the department; this other important scientific reference work can be used far outside the territory of Belgium, from the Netherlands to a large part of northern France. Several research projects, in particular with regard to water and marsh plants, are ongoing, from floristics and systematics to population dynamics:

Study of the flora and vegetation of coastal wetlands, their protection and management

The vegetation and distribution of aquatic and marsh plants in the Belgian polders (coastal wetlands, mostly under agricultural rule, but with many small linear and other landscape elements) are studied in detail.

Atlas of the Flora of Wallonia 

Fabienne Van Rossum in collaboration with AEF, CRNFB et GRFMN-FSUAGx

Floristic inventories on the field (IFBL 1 x 1 km squares) are realized for the achievement of an Atlas of the Flora of Wallonia. The Atlas will comprise distribution maps of all native and naturalized vascular plant species occurring in Wallonia. Trends for distribution will be analysed, and the Red List, recently published on the web, will be updated. A website and a new floristic list has been developed for this purpose:

Floristics, chorology and dynamics

Anne Ronse, Leo Vanhecke & Ivan Hoste

In collaboration with Flo.Wer, the Institute of Nature Conservation and the University of Ghent an updating of the information on the distribution of wild native and alien plants in Belgium is on-going. The comparison of the past and present frequency and the use of distribution patterns of ecotope indicator-species for delimitation of potential nature development areas are the main aims of this study. Therefore, the Garden contributes to the organization of volunteer flora inventory programmes and to the digitalization of all kinds of older and dispersed floristic information (field notes, literature, herbarium, ...).

This leads to the realization of one general floristic database 'Florabank'. (Leo Vanhecke, Koen Es in collaboration with W. Van Landuyt of the Institute of Nature Conservation).

The distribution of vascular plants (as well as bryophytes) in the area between Ghent and Bruges is been studied in detail by I. Hoste. This includes the gathering of data on the current introduction and spread of alien species (e.g. C4-grasses), especially in and along maize fields. Another point of special interest is the study of the flora, vegetation and historical ecology of the Kraenepoel (Aalter), a eutrophicated and severely degraded wetland habitat for which a restoration project is actually under way.

Monitoring of the more rare sea-dispersed (thalassochorous) plant species along the Belgian coast and the distribution and spread of coastal plant species along inland roadsides in Belgium especially Cochlearia danica (Brassicaceae) is documented (G. Rappé).

Phylogeny and population dynamics of Sempervivum funckii var. aqualiense

Fabienne Van Rossum, Olivier Raspé, Thierry Vanderborght 

Sempervivum funckii var. aqualiense (Crassulaceae) appears as the only endemic vascular plant taxon in Belgium. In the wild it occurs in only one locality, in the natural reserve “Heid des Gattes”, Aywaille (Wallonia). The high conservation value of this taxon and the necessity to preserve it are indisputable. However, its taxonomic status is uncertain and its phytogeographic origin is still unclear. Little is also known about its reproductive system (clonal propagation, sexual reproduction), and about population genetic diversity and demographic dynamics in the Heid des Gattes. The aim of the project is to verify the taxonomic status of Sempervivum funckii var. aqualiense using a phylogenetic approach, and to investigate the demographic and genetic dynamics of the population in the Heid des Gattes, and, therefore, to contribute to the sustainable conservation of this taxon through a better understanding of population functioning.

Phylogeography and postglacial recolonisation of Silene nutans (Caryophyllaceae) in Europe 

Fabienne Van Rossum, in collaboration with the Laboratoire de Génétique et Evolution des Populations Végétales (University of Lille1, France)

Genetic variation, evolution and species concepts in European Salicornia

Silene nutans (Caryophyllaceae) shows genetically differentiated groups (amongst others edaphic ecotypes) at the western and northern margins of its continental European distribution range, which suggest both historical (postglacial migration, contact zones) and recent processes (adaptive radiation). The aim of the project is to investigate the geographical patterns of genetic structure of Silene nutans (Caryophyllaceae) using a phylogeographic approach. Chloroplast and mitochondrial DNA polymorphism will be analysed to reconstruct phylogenies. This project will allow to identify the (southern/temperate) glacial refugia, the main postglacial (re)colonization routes and the potential contact zones for this species in Europe and to disentangle past and recent evolutionary processes.

Olivier Raspé

Salicornia (glassworts) are flowering plants colonising salt marshes, estuaries, etc. They show much reduced vegetative and reproductive organs. Hence, morphological characters that can be used to identify species are scarce and often quantitative. This is why the taxonomy of the genus has fluctuated a lot and is still subject to debate. The aim of the project is to use DNA markers to investigate species limits in a population genetics/phylogeographical context.

Conservation biology of Habitat Directive species

Anne Ronse, Olivier Raspé, Leo Vanhecke

Study of the historical and actual distribution, phytosociology, ecology and reproductive biology of the higher plant species of the European Habitat Directive that are present in Belgium (Apium repens, Luronium natans, Liparis loeselii and Bromus grossus). Demographic monitoring of four Belgian populations of Apium repens and research on the clonal variation in these populations. Study of the genetic variation of A. repens and related species throughout their geographical range.

Population biology and ecology of the terrestrial orchids, especially of the genus Dactylorhiza


Plant morphology and stature, flowering behavior and phenology are followed in time series at the level of individuals and populations in Belgium but also in the rest of Europe. The dynamics of populations (alterations in size, redevelopment under environmental stress, cohort analyses, age spectra,...) of the populations and the spatial distribution of individuals within the populations are studied in relation to external factors (in one case already for 3 decades).

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