Botanic Garden Meise - Belgium
Botanic Garden Meise
Agentschap Plantentuin Meise
Present weather sensors
The site of Botanic Garden Meise is a 92 ha domain near Brussels. It has been assembled from parts of two historic castle parks. For more than 75 years it has been home to a collection of plants, as well as a research institute dedicated to botany, forming one of the largest botanic gardens in Europe but also an important tourist attraction close to Brussels. Some habitats get a high degree of disturbance, either due to garden maintenance, or from the large number of visitors. There are also managed and more natural areas. A variety of terrestrial and aquatic habitats occur, among which valuable woody (semi-)natural areas, and also managed meadows. The study of biodiversity in the park has relealed an exceptional species richness in many taxonomic groups. More than 600 wild vascular plant species have been found since 2002, including rare species that were inadvertently introduced during the 19th century, so called wood lawn neophytes . Since 1993 the ectomycorrhizal fungi have been monitored, and there are observations of 52 Red List species in the domain. The park is also the richest Belgian site for Laboulbeniales (Ascomycetes), obligate ectoparasites of Arthropoda. Especially the wet ash-alder forests hold a number of rare and unique taxa and host-parasite combinations, some of them with only a few localities known worldwide. Moreover, the domain is a biodiversity hotspot for lichens and lichenicolous fungi, among other factors as a result of management, such as the regular maintenance of the undergrowth which has a positive effect on light-loving epiphytic lichens, and also due to the diversity of habitats and the large range of different substrates of varying age and of ecological conditions. Another well represented group are diatoms (Bacillariophyta), of which a mere survey in a small pond already yielded two species which have been described as new to science. The site is also rich in fauna, for example rare bat species that overwinter in our historical underground ice cellars. The diverse range of cultivated species also attracts an enormous range of arthropods and plant pathogens, which we know exceeds what we know of it.
General Characteristics, Purpose, History
Within the park detailed biodiversity research and monitoring has been done for several taxonomical groups, also investigating the effects of the management methods on the biodiversity, and taking into consideration historical factors. This was facilitated by the large in-house expertise and knowledge of various groups of organisms. Other types of research have taken advantage of the diverse plant collections in Meise during several decades, for example for phenological records of frost damage and of flowering dates. Observations of new plant pest and disease organisms have been made, such as a new mealybug species to Belgium, and the Botanic Garden coordinates the Belgian Plant Sentinel Network. Furthermore the site is used on research on alien and potentially invasive plants and animals. Some climatological and environmental records have been recorded in the Garden for a long time. The garden participates to the Bos Online project, and educational STEM project of RVO Society and IMEC, that aims to demonstrate the impact of trees on the microclimate. High tech sensors were installed in order to measure air humidity, temperature, CO2, VOC’s, PM10 and precipitation. More importantly, the research infrastructure will be further developed and we will participate to long-term ecological research/monitoring projects. We think that the site has several assets that contribute to its potential as LTER site, while an increasing number of visitors will allow to integrate socio-economic aspects as well for LTSER studies. Furthermore, the Garden has a large scope for activities on education and public awareness. Notably the Garden is integrated into the strategic project "Groene Noordrand", which aims to combine landscape restoration, nature development, integral water management and quiet recreation with sustainable agriculture.
The Bouchout domain lies in Meise, near Brussels and covers 92 ha. It consists of the adjacent grounds of Meise Castle and Bouchout Castle. King Leopold II merged the two grounds for his sister Charlotte, Empress of Mexico, where she lived until her death. In 1939, the first buildings and greenhouses were set up and the first plants were moved from Brussels to Meise. The Balat greenhouse was also moved from the grounds in Brussels to its present location in the Herbetum. This greenhouse, originally designed for the Brussels Zoo at the Leopold Park and afterwards used to cultivate the giant waterlily, Victoria amazonica , in the Brussels Garden, is presently used to house tender plants. The architect, Alphonse Balat, also designed the world famous Royal Greenhouses at Laken and many interesting buildings in Brussels. The Second World War slowed down the completion of the transfer but, after the war, the activity continued. Unfortunately, the Meise Castle was totally destroyed during the Second World War and only its orangery and a number of smaller buildings remain within the original grounds. The ancient castle of Bouchout (the oldest tower dates from the 14th century) has survived the ages in various incarnations. The building of the 'Plant Palace' began in 1947. In 1967, the official name of the institution also changed into 'Nationale Plantentuin van België / Jardin Botanique National de Belgique' (National Botanic Garden of Belgium). The building housing the herbarium and the library was finished in the sixties. However, the herbarium collection grew so quickly that a new wing had to be added (1987). This houses the department of non-vascular cryptogams (Bryophytes and Thallophytes) and its mycological, bryological and phycological collections. During all this time the living collections and the herbarium collections grew extensively, as did the research output. From 1st. January 2014 the Garden was transferred from the federal level to the communities, its official new name became: Agentschap Plantentuin Meise (Botanic Garden Meise).
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