Botanic Garden Meise


Research on the Living Collection

Database of living plant collections (LIVCOL)

(Thierry Vanderborght)

Botanic Garden Meise detains living plant collections of more than 25,000 accessions from 17,000 taxa or 14,000 species. This material is cultivated for research, conservation and educational purposes. In order to increase the efficiency of its management and to respond to the ever-increasing demands for information, a computerized data bank (LIVCOL) is being developed. The software used is "Progress", a fourth generation relational database management system. The structure allows users to avoid redundancy and to assure the integrity of the information. Programmes are developed with a multi-user-friendly approach. The database is organized into some 53 files and 240 descriptors concerning identification, synonymy, source, origin, cultivation, seed production and distribution, herbarium specimens, photography, plant observations, ... It currently includes data on 41,000 accessions and 31,000 taxa.

Conservation of endangered species

(Sandrine Godefroid)

As Belgian focal point for the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, our botanic garden ensures that its scientific activities fall within the objectives of this strategy. Research activities in this area are mainly intended to optimise the quality of the collections stored in the seed bank. They primarily concentrate on the study of seed germination and seed storage behaviour, but also on the genetic diversity of samples and species vulnerability to current and future environmental changes. These studies focus on endangered species of the Belgian flora but also other territories in which our botanic garden is specialised (Europe and Central Africa). Such research enhances the development strategy of the seed bank and develops the link between ex situ and in situ conservation.

Key publication:

  • Aplin D. 2008. How useful are botanic gardens for conservation? The RHS Plantsman 7/3: 190-193.
  • Delescaille L.M., Piqueray J., Godefroid S. 2011. Le statut du brome épais (Bromus grossus) en Région Wallonne. Adoxa 69/70 : 1-14.
  • Godefroid S., Vanderborght T. 2010. Seed banking of endangered plants: are we conserving the right species to address climate change? Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 3049-3058.
  • Godefroid S., Van de Vyver A., Vanderborght T. 2010. Germination capacity and viability of threatened species collections in seed banks. Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 1365-1383.
  • Godefroid S., Vanderborght T. 2011. Plant reintroductions: the need for a global database. Biodiversity and Conservation 20: 3683-3688.
  • Godefroid S., Van de Vyver A., Stoffelen P., Robbrecht E., Vanderborght T. 2011. Testing the viability of seeds from old herbarium specimens for conservation purposes. Taxon 60: 565-569.
  • Godefroid S., Rivière S., Waldren S., Boretos N., Eastwood R., Vanderborght T. 2011. To what extent are threatened European plant species conserved in seed banks? Biological Conservation 144: 1494-1498.
  • Godefroid S., Piazza C., Rossi G., Buord S., Stevens A.D., Aguraiuja R., Cowell C., Weekley C.W., Vogg G., Iriondo J., Johnson I., Dixon B., Gordon D., Magnanon S., Valentin B., Bjureke K., Koopman R., Vicens M., Virevaire M., Vanderborght T. 2011. How successful are plant species reintroductions? Biological Conservation 144: 672-682.
  • Rammeloo J., Diagre D., Aplin D., Fabri R. 2005. The collections of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium. In: Segers H., Desmet P., Baus E. (eds), Tropical Biodiversity: Science, Data, Conservation, pp. 30-43, Proceedings of the 3rd GBIF Science Symposium, 18-19 April 2005, Brussels.
  • Vanderborght T. 2003. Une banque de graines de plantes sauvages: un outil à la disposition d’une stratégie de conservation intégrée. Les Naturalistes belges 84 : 70-84.
  • Vanderborght T. 2004. Seed banking at the National Botanic Garden of Belgium. Scripta Botanica Belgica 29: 97-99.

Phenology of tropical and subtropical plants in greenhouses in the National Botanic Garden of Belgium

(F. Billiet)

Plants grown in the tropical and subtropical greenhouses of the Botanic Garden are studied with regard to flowering and fruiting behavior. Five types of behavior are distinguished based on duration and frequency of flowering and fruiting periods. A calendar with the periods of maximum flowering is established. The studies started in 1993 and 577 different taxa belonging to 119 families have been studied until now.

Key publication:

  • Billiet F. (1999) Contribution à l'étude de la phénologie de plantes tropicales et subtropicales cultivées en serre : floraisons et fructifications. Syst. Geogr. Pl. 69: 45-90.
  • Billiet F. (2004) Phenology of tropical and subtropical plants in greenhouses in the National Botanic Garden of Belgium. Scripta Bot. Belg. 29: 39-54.

Identification of tropical and subtropical plants in greenhouses and herbaceous plants outdoors in the  Botanic Garden 

(F. Billiet)

In order to verify the correct identity of the living plants grown in the Garden, plants are vouchered and often photographed when they are flowering. The library as well as the herbarium BR offer very good tools to achieve these verifications or to achieve new identifications. The database LIVCOL enables the location of other introductions of the same living taxon in the garden so that comparisons can be made. A herbarium of the living taxa has been built up and comprises about 8,800 specimens. The colour-slide collection holds about 6,000 slides of plants and details of flowers and fruits.

Identification of Woody Plants in the Outdoor Collections of the Botanic Garden

(D. De Meyere)

Verification and identification of specimens in the collection is of major concern, since researchers use much of this living plant material worldwide. Voucher specimens are taken when appropriate. About 3,600 accessions belonging to 2,100 different taxa have been verified or identified. Of these, 2,280 accessions (5,560 in total) are still in the collection. Generally all plants of a whole genus are examined at once, preferably by consulting the most recent monographs. This method minimizes the occurrence of incorrect identifications and has the advantage of detecting possible errors in the keys. Nomenclature and taxonomic levels are also corrected or adjusted.

Variation of Winter-hardiness of Woody Plants in the Outdoor Collections of the Botanic Garden

(D. De Meyere)

Detailed observations of frost damage on living plant material are carried out on a yearly basis but is strongly dependant on the occurrence of winter cold and late spring or early autumn frosts. New taxa are searched for, introduced, propagated and planted out in the field. A wide diversity of taxa belonging to more than 900 accessions has been observed during the last 20 years. All data are stored in a database.

Key publication:

  • De Meyere D. & van Trier (1987) Winterhardheid van houtige gewassen in België: waarnemingen gedurende de periode 1984-85. Rusticité des plantes ligneuses en Belgique: observations pendant la période 1984-85. Winter Hardiness of Woody Plants in Belgium: observations during the period 1984-85. 131 p. Meise, Nationale Plantentuin van België.

Phenology of Woody Plants in the Outdoor Collections of the Botanic Garden

(D. De Meyere)

Phenological observations (flowering period, autumn colouring and leaf shedding) are carried out on a large assortment of trees and shrubs. Start- and end- dates of flowering have been recorded for several woody plants in the garden. A wide diversity of taxa belonging to more than 3,000 different accessions has been observed during the last 20 years. All data are stored in a database. These data should be useful to landscape architects, gardeners, educational projects, etc.

Key publication:

  • D. De Meyere (2000) Cultivation of Sorbus at the National Botanic Garden Meise. Belg. Dendr. Belg. 1999 :45-53.
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