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1 National Botanic Garden of Belgium Annual report 213

2 National Botanic Garden of Belgium Annual report 213

3 Foreword Building a sustainable future through discovery, research and conservation of plants. The new mission statement for the Botanic Garden Meise: Building a sustainable future through discovery, research and conservation of plants, encapsulates the value our Garden delivers not only in Belgium but globally. In our modern world, botanic gardens such as ours have a more comprehensive mission than other plant-focused organisations. They combine fundamental research such as taxonomy and phylogenetics with practical ex situ and in situ conservation programs. They share this plant knowledge with the wider public to raise awareness of the vital role plants play in our daily lives. Our skilled team of staff collaborates daily with an extensive range of people and organisations at home and abroad in the pursuit of making a real difference to society and to promote a more sustainable future. Our collaborative network includes primary and secondary schools, universities, and other plant research and conservation organisations. Over the past year our staff have made significant contributions to recording worldwide biodiversity. This has been achievable through their expertise and the accumulation of many unique scientific collections gathered through the history of our Garden. The examples highlighted in this annual report demonstrate how traditional methods combine with modern scientific practice to help describe plant diversity and unravel its history. The importance of linking in situ and ex situ plant conservation will only increase as up to a third of all plant life is threatened with extinction. In 213, the Garden embarked on a large EU-funded project to ecologically restore one of Belgium s most fragile ecosystems. Further afield, we have investigated the economic value of African woodlands in terms of edible wild-sourced mushrooms and how the conservation of forests contributes to reducing food shortage and malnutrition. This is an important topic as policy makers worldwide incorporate economic models in their decision making processes. The year 213 was also exciting for our staff working on natural history collections that had largely been forgotten. These collections finally received the attention they deserve and are now being carefully curated. The Garden also further strengthened its indoor and outdoor living plant collections. Many of our living collections are important for scientific research, conservation and education programs. We were pleased to strengthen their multiple values over the past year by acquiring new and exciting plants. This year also saw the educational program of the Garden extended to a significant part of the visiting public: visitors who are blind and visually impaired. This group can now benefit from a specialised tour accommodating their additional needs. This annual report marks the end of an era. On the first of January 214, the Garden was formally transferred to the Flemish community and in so doing has adopted a new name Botanic Garden Meise. The staff have been assigned to the Flemish- or French-speaking community, but will continue their work to achieve common goals. The preparation for this transfer required a lot of energy and goodwill from all the administrations involved: in the first place from the staff of the Garden, but also from many individuals working at the federal government, and Flemish and French communities. Thanks to you all, the transition was well prepared and we look forward to a positive future. In conclusion, I would like to thank all our staff, volunteers, guides, the federal government, the governments of the Flemish and French-speaking communities and our many supporters for all the work achieved in 213. I am convinced that together, we are ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead! Steven Dessein Chief Executive Officer

4 Discovering and recording biodiversity Discovering and recording biodiversity 5 11 Safeguarding plant life Understanding ecosystems (Re-)connecting plants and people At present the total number of plant species on our planet remains unknown. Many are yet to be discovered, especially in the tropics and in certain groups like fungi and algae. This represents a serious scientific deficit, since species are the fundamental building blocks of ecosystems and knowing them is essential to our understanding of how our living planet works. Discovering, describing, naming and classifying species is at the core of our scientific research. Our taxonomists combine classic methods, such as morphology, histology and anatomy with modern techniques including scanning electron microscopy, digital imaging and DNA barcoding. The result aims to be a globally accepted, stable and scientific ordering of all life forms in a system that reflects their evolutionary origin. The taxonomic data and identification tools, such as floras, developed by our specialists are crucial for many other fields of research and for commercial purposes Inspiring and informing Bringing our heritage to life 3 35 Organisation 36 4 Facts and figures

5 Piccolia congolensis Van den Broeck, Aptroot & Ertz, a new crustose lichen from the Congolese rainforest. Cavinula lilandae Cocquyt, M. de Haan & J.C. Taylor, a new diatom species from the Congo Basin. New to science Every year, our researchers organise field trips and discover new species of plants and fungi from around the world. Back in the laboratory, the carefully collected samples are studied in-depth using a range of scientific instruments, such as light and scanning-electron microscopes, chemical analysis and DNA examination. In 213, 18 diatoms, 13 lichens, 1 fungus, and 21 flowering plants were described as new to science by our staff. Through their studies, our taxonomists are key actors in inventorying the world s biodiversity. Occasionally discoveries can even be found closer to home: take for example the hybrid Magnolia nooteboomiana Geerinck. This previously undescribed ornamental was discovered growing along an avenue in the suburb of Ixelles in Brussels. Meanwhile the ectoparasitic fungus Cantharomyces elongatus Haelewaters & De Kesel was first recorded by science in association with an insect from an ash forest of the Netherlands. Central Africa is a well-known hotspot of diversity and has always been of particular interest for our researchers. Among the new diatom species of 213, Cavinula lilandae Cocquyt, M.de Haan & J.C.Taylor is worth a mention as it represents the first described alga resulting from our Boyekoli Ebale Congo 21 Expedition. Virtually nothing is known about algal diversity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo so the description of many more new taxa is inevitable in the coming years. The aforementioned expedition also yielded a previously unknown lichen Piccolia congolensis Van den Broeck, Aptroot & Ertz. Morphological studies and molecular analyses are complementary to advance the knowledge of lichenology. In 213, studies conducted by our researchers resulted in the description of three new lichen genera from Chile, Madagascar, and Brazil (Austroroccella Tehler & Ertz, Savoronala Ertz, Eb.Fisch., Killmann, Razafin. & Sérus. and Sergipea M.Cáceres, Ertz & Aptroot). The herbarium of the Botanic Garden harbours many unidentified specimens of flowering plants, some collected decades ago and waiting to be described. In 213, research on African flora mainly focused on the genera Justicia (Acanthaceae) and Psychotria (Rubiaceae). From these two genera 11 and 8 species (respectively) were described as new to science. Many of these are endemic and threatened in the wild. Field observations are often important to solve taxonomic problems. This proved to be the case in the new African species, Kalaharia schaijesii Bamps (Lamiaceae). Previously it had been confused with the only other representative of its genus; however, observations on its growth habit and flower characters proved this was yet another distinct species. Completing the Flora of Central Africa A Flora is a publication which aids the identification of plants. It is an essential tool, not just for specialist taxonomists but also for ecologists, foresters, conservation workers, ethno-botanists and even zoologists, for example investigating what a particular animal feeds on. In tropical Africa, a complete Flora is available for the west and east, but the central region has only partially been covered. This seriously hinders scientists and conservationists in the region who have to rely heavily on a network of specialists to identify species and point out which are the least common or most endangered. Since 1948, the Botanic Garden has been involved in the production of Flore d Afrique centrale, which aims to include all plants known to occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. To date, the flora has grown to a series of books containing over 6, species belonging to 18 plant families. Despite this huge effort this work only covers 6% of the total flora. Over the last two decades, production has been slow. In 213 however, the Garden decided to take responsibility and breathe new life into resuming this ambitious project. From the 1 st of October 213, a specialist was appointed specifically to coordinate efforts to complete the remaining 4% of the Flora. His task is to create a sound network of specialists willing to contribute to the Flore d Afrique centrale series. These specialists will need to critically read thousands of articles, study several hundred thousand herbarium vouchers and organise the production of several thousand drawings. In addition to a printed version, a smart e-environment will be created to accommodate the gathered data. This online version will facilitate greater access to information, simplify the task of updating existing information with new finds (even new species), and enable the development of related tools such as apps for mobile phones. Furthermore, our Garden will try to acquire additional funding to train and educate a sufficiently large group of regional botanists in Central Africa to assist in the Flora production and maintain and update the e-version. The aim is to complete the Flore d Afrique centrale and its e- version in 15 years; a lofty ambition indeed! 1 Progress Flore d'afrique centrale Spermatophytes Streptocarpus bindseilii at Rugarama in Rwanda, a recently described and rare endemic species of the Gesneriaceae family that has yet to be treated in the Flore d Afrique centrale. Photo Eberhard Fischer. Trunk covered by crustaceous lichens in the Congolese rainforest Past progress in species numbers (in green) and the projected ambition (in black) of the Flore d Afrique centrale series Discovering and recording biodiversity 6 7

6 Diatom diversity in the Congo basin Protosteloid Amoebae in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Lilanda River northwest of Yangambi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the aims of the Boyekoli Ebale Congo 21 Expedition was to study the diversity of diatoms in the Congo Basin. Water samples were taken at various locations along the Congo River. These included locations downstream of Kisangani (Democratic Republic of the Congo) at the intersection of several major tributaries, namely the rivers Lomami, Itimbiri and Aruwimi, and a number of smaller rivers and streams such as Lubilu and Lilanda in the vicinity of Yangambi. Samples were brought back to the Botanic Garden for the identification of any diatom species present. Initial investigations revealed the presence of a large number of unknown diatom species, in contrast, the number of observed cosmopolitan species was relatively low but included: Navicula rostellata; Staurosirella pinnata; and Ulnaria ulna. There were also African and tropical-african species such as: Fragilariforma strangulata; Gomphonema zairensis. Interestingly, some taxa had been previously recorded and described from South America. These included: Encyonopsis frequentis Krammer and Gomphosphenia tenerrima. A number of taxa observed from the Congo Basin are closely related (but different) to species discovered from the Amazon Basin in South America, while others were more closely related to taxa described from tropical Asia. An example includes a species related to Navicula fuerbornii, described from Java. It appeared that Navicula fuerbornii had also been recorded in Ghana, but on closer investigation that discovery had a different type-drawing compared with the specimen from Java. Therefore, the name given to the Ghanaian specimen was misapplied. This means a new taxon will need to be described as the form discovered in Democratic Republic of the Congo was the same as the one found in Ghana. Many new species discovered were from the genus Eunotia, a typical component of small acidic rivers and streams with a ph value often less than 5. This environment, although generally low in species diversity, also yielded another new species, Cavinula lilandae Cocquyt, M.de Haan & J.C.Taylor that was described and published in 213. This species was named after its type-locality, the village and stream Lilanda. The larger tributaries of the Congo River with ph values greater than 8 that were surveyed had a greater diversity of species with often more than 5 taxa observed in a single sample. The descriptions of several other new taxa are in progress while other descriptions are already in press or submitted to peer-reviewed international journals. These diatom studies were made possible thanks to our Garden s involvement in the Boyekoli Ebale Congo 21 Expedition (http:// and an additional two projects financed by the Federal Science Policy namely: COBAFISH (Congo Basin: From carbon to fishes); and COZADIMO (Preliminary study of diatoms as potential water quality indicators for the tropical Congo and Zambezi sister basins). Protosteloid Amoebae are bacterivorous protists that can be found on dead plant matter and represent a small group of 33 species. They are traditionally placed together with two other groups of fruiting amoebae, myxomycetes and dictyostelids in the Eumycetozoa. Identification of taxa is based on morphological characteristics of their microscopic fruiting bodies that are comprised of a translucent stalk supporting one or more spores. The occurrence of Protosteloid Amoebae in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was studied in cultures from substrates collected between the cities of Kisangani and Bumba during the Boyekoli Ebale Congo 21 Expedition. This survey of Protosteloid Amoebae is the first for Central Africa, with previous records for Africa restricted to Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. Cultures from aerial litter (or dead, attached leaves), revealed 23 species or 7% of the total number of species described worldwide. Two of these taxa, Schizoplasmodiopsis reticulata and Schizoplasmodium seychellarum, were new records for the African continent. Furthermore, the isolate LHI5 was observed for the first time outside Hawai i. Of particular interest is the discovery of 5 unknown taxa that have been documented. The high species diversity observed on a limited number of samples suggests that the investigated region is, together with Hawai i, one of the world s tropical hotspots for Protosteloid Amoebae. Names of Cyanobacteria revised The scientific names of plants have to be published in a particular way outlined in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN). This ensures a clear understanding of valid names across the scientific community and, among other things, prevents two taxa being given the same name. Occasionally, names are not validly published and in this event corrections have to be applied. This is an account of one of these instances. Gloeobacter violaceus Rippka et al. was the name given to a primitive Cyanobacterium (Cyanophyte) in It is phylogenetically important among the Cyanophyta because it uniquely lacks thylakoids, the site of light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. Although Gloeobacter violaceus has been widely cited in experimental, taxonomical and phylogenetic literature, it was recently noted that its genus name Gloeobacter was invalidly published and as a result it has no current standing under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN), nor under the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes. Consequently, the names Gloeobacter and G. violaceus were validated by the process of designating a holotype in agreement with Article 4 of the ICBN. During the course of this study, it appeared that several names could compete with G. violaceus and had priority. Moreover, one of these names was the type of another genus, Gloeothece. To ensure continuous use of the names Gloeobacter violaceus and Gloeothece it is necessary to conserve both names. In order to facilitate this two conservation proposals were published in the scientific journal Taxon. Both proposals will be examined by the Nomenclature Committee for Algae and by the General Nomenclature Committee which will decide if both names are included in the list of Nomina conservanda or conserved names. Collecting of aerial litter samples for the cultivation of Protosteloid Amoebae. Discovering and recording biodiversity 8 9

7 Out of Africa: recent trans-oceanic dispersal of plant species to Madagascar Our Contribution to the Catalogue of Life Herbarium specimen of Ixora peculiaris De Block. Once part of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar broke away from eastern Africa 16 million years ago and later from Antarctica and India, leaving it isolated in the Indian Ocean for the past 8 million years. This long separation precludes any possibility that flowering plants could have been on the island before it broke away, since they evolved more recently. Despite its long isolation, Madagascar is home to more than 12, plant species, most of these endemic, making it one of the most diverse floras on the planet. Where did all of Madagascar s unique plant species come from? Researchers of the Garden undertook a molecular study of the pantropical genus Ixora, with ca. 53 species, one of the largest genera of the coffee family. Some 4 species of Ixora occur in Africa, another 4 are endemic to Madagascar. Our study showed that the Madagascan Ixora species belong to two lineages of different ages. This means that there has been at least one dispersal event from Eastern Africa across the Mozambique Channel to Madagascar some eight million years ago. Once arrived in Madagascar, Ixora started a rapid radiation, colonising the new island and adapting to its different niches. Hence, the Madagascan Ixora species are recent endemics, evolved in situ following trans-oceanic dispersal. The two separate lineages of Madagascan Ixora exhibit similar morphological innovations, unique within the genus. This suggests that the same selective pressures drive the evolution of both groups. In comparison to continental Africa, Ixora has undergone a rare differentiation in Madagascar. There is a trend towards reduction of the number of flowers per inflorescence from several hundreds to few or even one. Furthermore, flower size is spectacularly variable with corolla tubes between.4 and 23 cm long. After its arrival in Madagascar, Ixora diversified into 4 species with certain unique morphological characters, and all this in a period of less than eight million years. How can this rapid radiation be explained? One of the main driving forces of rapid radiations is climatic fluctuation, which we know occurred in the Plio- and Pleistocene. If the climate is drier, tropical forests retract and become isolated within a drier landscape. Once isolated, populations of the same species may develop different characters and evolve into different species. Pollinators are also a driving force for radiation. The diversification in corolla tube length in Madagascan Ixora will undoubtedly have resulted in increased pollinator specificity, thereby, again, isolating different populations from each other and facilitating their evolution into different species. The Catalogue of Life is an ambitious project to create a register of all the world s organisms and their relationships. The directory acts as a taxonomic backbone for many other large global projects, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Encyclopedia of Life. In 213, the Garden contributed this database via the European Union funded i4life project, aimed at boosting the number of species in the Catalogue of Life and increasing the number of participating institutions. Given our expertise in the African Flora we chose to contribute to checklists of African endemic families and the Connaraceae, a largely African family. Some of the endemic families are rather obscure. For example, the Hydrostachyaceae are rare freshwater plants that are found on waterfalls and in rapids; the Grubbiaceae are a 9 million year old family now restricted to the Cape Peninsula in South Africa and the Dioncophyllaceae are rare plants from tropical West Africa, which include Triphyophyllum peltatum, an unusual climbing carnivorous plant. While these families are obscure, they are often overlooked in taxonomic checklists, nevertheless, they are important conservation targets as they represent diverse evolutionary lineages. Thus far we have contributed approximately 1, accepted names and synonyms to the project. However, we are continuing to work on the checklist and expect to deliver an additional 8 names in the near future. Dumortiera becomes a free digital journal In 213, the Botanic Garden s journal of field botany Dumortiera saw a threefold increase of subscribers compared with the previous year. The reason for this was the decision to publish online as a free digital journal. Established in 1975, the journal has proved an important link between professional and amateur botanists. Over the past few years, however, the number of subscribers and submitted manuscripts dwindled. After the publication of issue 1 in 212 it was decided that a change was needed. Issue 11 became the first to enter this new digital era. There are many advantages to this format: The full article can be downloaded free-of-charge as a pdf document; Authors can include additional content, such as large annexes and high quality full colour illustrations. For instance, a herbarium sheet can be reproduced with on-screen magnification that allows close scrutiny of plant details that may be featured in the article; Authors appreciate they reach a larger readership; Subscribers are informed by when a new issue is published. In addition to articles in Dutch and French (with English translation of the abstract), the journal now also publishes contributions in English. Articles from previous issues have been made available to download thus making Dumortiera more accessible to a wider community. Compound leaf of the African species Cnestis ferruginea DC. (Connaraceae) grown in the glasshouses of the Botanic Garden. Dumortiera 13. Discovering and recording biodiversity 1 11

8 Safeguarding plant life It is estimated that up to one third of plant species are currently threatened or face extinction in the wild, mainly due to habitat fragmentation and destruction, combined with climate change. Every plant has a crucial role in a healthy functioning ecosystem. Some may hold unknown treasures such as molecules with helpful medicinal properties. Therefore, the safeguarding of plant species is essential. Our research contributes to the development of tools for in situ conservation in valuable natural sites both nationally and internationally. Off-site or ex situ conservation is equally important. We collect plant material from the wild for preservation and propagation in our living collections, and in the collections of partner botanic gardens. Our seed bank holds the seeds of many rare and endangered species, thus safeguarding critical genetic variation. In combining our expertise and collections we are able to assist with the reintroduction of species in natural habitats both now and into the future. Soil seed bank of the rare creeping marshwort Helosciadium repens (creeping marshwort) is a small plant formerly known as Apium repens; it belongs to the carrot family or Apiaceae. It is a rare plant from marshes and wet meadows with a restricted, mainly European distribution, and is mentioned by the European Habitat Directive as a species in need of special protection. Over the past ten years the Botanic Garden conducted a research project looking at conservation biology and ecological demands within Belgian populations. Part of this work involved recording counts of individuals in permanent plots. These records, however, fail to take into account the seeds that may be present in the soil seed bank. Soil seed banks can be vital for the survival of a species. Since the creeping marshwort has reappeared in former localities after more than 5 years of absence, we believed it to have a long-lived soil seed bank. Consequently, a study was undertaken to investigate the soil seed bank. In the three largest populations, soil samples were taken, flushed through sieves and dried. The resulting soil fractions were viewed under a binocular microscope revealing glimpses of an often surprisingly beautiful underground world. The seeds of H. repens were separated from the soil, measured and stored in our Garden s seed bank under long-term storage conditions. The dark brown seeds turned out to be difficult to distinguish from the soil, making their counting unreliable. Therefore, soil samples were scattered thinly on to the surface of potting compost and placed in the glasshouses and watered. This practice resulted in the germination of hundreds of H. repens seedlings. Of these more than five hundred were sampled and stored in silica gel to later investigate the genetic diversity of the soil seed bank. Some seedlings were transplanted to reinforce an existing population that had strongly declined due, among other things, to poor habitat management. Most populations of creeping marshwort are grazed by horses. Seedlings germinating from soil samples taken from populations of creeping marshwort (Helosciadium repens)

9 The Garden embarks on ecological restoration Transplanting propagated material of the maiden pink (Dianthus deltoides) in a restored area of grassland in Southern Belgium. Nutrient-poor grassland habitats and several of their characteristic species have reached a critical state in many European countries, including Belgium. The main reasons for this situation are: habitat fragmentation, abandonment of the traditional agro-pastoral activities, and the intensification of agricultural practices. There is now an urgent need to preserve, manage and restore these few remaining, often degraded, habitat patches. Part of this work includes the restoration of critically endangered plant species and populations that without intervention would not regenerate naturally due to limited dispersal capacities and the absence of seed bank in the soil. These challenging tasks are being addressed in the framework of a new EU-LIFE Nature project in Southern Belgium (LIFE11 NAT/ BE/16). The partners of this project include Natagora, the SPWallonie (DEMNA and DNF) and the Botanic Garden. This sevenyear project ( ) aims at improving the conservation status of 4 ha of priority grasslands using an integrated approach, involving both in situ and ex situ conservation techniques. LIFE funds are used to restore 11 different grassland types, including six priority habitats, including: xeric sand calcareous grasslands, semi-natural dry grasslands on calcareous substrates, and species-rich Nardus grasslands. As a centre of excellence in ex situ conservation, our Garden is responsible for species reintroduction and reinforcement for six target species: maiden pink (Dianthus deltoides), proliferous pink (Petrorhagia prolifera), dwarf everlast (Helichrysum arenarium), clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata), mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica) and the mountain arnica (Arnica montana). The aim is to increase the effective size of remaining populations (reinforcement) and to restore extinct populations (reintroduction) in order to improve connectivity in the landscape. For each species, seeds have been collected in 3-4 source populations in similar habitats (geographically close to the target sites). Leaves from each source and target population were sampled to estimate within-population genetic diversity and inbreeding level, and between-population genetic divergence. Soil samples were collected at the target sites to study the soil seed bank. After several months of testing with different types of substrate, propagation protocols have successfully been developed for all target species. During 213, one thousand individuals of Dianthus deltoides were transplanted in two restored sites. Prior to transplanting, morphometric measurements of each individual (length and width of the largest leaf) were recorded. Once in situ these plants were precisely mapped to facilitate their long-term monitoring (survival, vegetative growth, flowering, fruiting, germination, recruitment). We anticipate that other reintroductions will follow as habitat restoration progresses. Development of propagation protocols in the Garden s nursery. Garden staff collecting seeds of dwarf everlast (Helichrysum arenarium) in the wild. Safeguarding plant life 14 15

10 Use of local plants for the arboretum of ERAIFT. Improvement of the ERAIFT arboretum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Senior staff at ERAIFT ( Ecole régionale post universitaire d Aménagement et de Gestion intégrés des Forêts et Territoires tropicaux ) decided to improve the green spaces around its buildings that previously comprised of a massive plantation of Acacia and Eucalyptus planted originally to mitigate the effects of serious erosion. Our Garden proposed to support the improvement of the plantation in a joint Botanic Garden / ERAIFT / UNESCO program. The objective of the program was to develop an arboretum to facilitate the education of students (ERAIFT and other Faculties) on the identification of typical forests trees of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A simple planting scheme was devised and the area was divided into a range of plots with each plot containing a single species. In order for the work to progress our Garden needed to find practical help to develop the new arboretum. Consequently, they joined forces with an NGO Les Amis de la nature et des jardins (ANJ), an organisation committed to fieldwork to help safeguarding nature. Subsequently, locals were employed, especially women and young adults (previously living on the streets) to help develop this new plantation. The first area planted comprised of 2.7 ha and was enriched with 28 labelled trees from 3 different species (e.g. Milicia excelsa, Milletia laurentii, Penthacletra macrophylla, Pericopsis elata and Terminalia superba). In the same area a nature trail is planned to educate the public on a range of themes from environmental protection, endangered species and the sustainable collection of firewood. Our Garden will continue to monitor the plantation during 214 to ensure a successful outcome of the project. Understanding ecosystems In a world increasingly under environmental pressure, plants, ecosystems and the services they provide need to be maintained to keep the planet healthy. Amongst other things they mitigate the effects of greenhouse gasses, play an important role in the global water cycle, and help combat desertification. The work of our researchers helps us understand how ecosystems function, and how they can be described and monitored. They also investigate invasive species that influence native species. Throughout the world, in Africa as in Belgium, humankind is fully dependent on healthy ecosystems. Safeguarding plant life 16 17

11 Tools for the conservation and sustainable use of African woodlands: edible fungi The mega-diverse rainforests of Central Africa usually draw most of the attention of conservationists because of their destruction by the logging industry. Lesser known is the forested area around the so-called Congo Basin that is being systematically depleted due to charcoal production. The latter woodlands (termed miombos) are adapted to a long dry season (at least 4 months) with many tree species being resistant to bushfires. These forests are vulnerable because once cleared they have difficulty to regenerate. The human pressure on this forest ecosystem is excessively high since half of the African population depends on it for food, medicine, fuel and construction timber, etc. Researchers at our Garden developed a method for delivering taxonomical data and tools for the conservation and sustainable use of these woodlands. These tools are meant to estimate the value of non timber forest products like edible fungi, an essential step in the re-evaluation of the true worth of less-valued yet threatened ecosystems. By using permanent plots the annual, natural production of wild edible fungi was measured in different forest types. This study was conducted in the woodlands of Benin (Sudanian region) and Southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zambezian region). In both these areas fungi are an important food source and a vital income for millions of people. Study results revealed a high diversity of edible species within each region. The majority of these fungi were ectomycorrhizal symbionts, i.e. obligatorily associated with the root system of living trees. The species composition appears to depend on the forest type. Our study revealed that chanterelles dominate in the Zambezian region while the Sudanian region is dominated by milk-caps. The yields of fungi range from 1 to 3 kg/ha/year, depending on the species and forest type. If just 1% of this production reaches the market to be sold at an average of 1 per kg, a single hectare of miombo would deliver, on average, 2 /year. Although charcoal delivers a much greater amount 3 /ha this can only happen once because once felled the woodland needs 3 years to regenerate. Consequently, over time charcoal delivers just half of the income generated from harvesting fungi! This study therefore proves that maintaining the ecosystems service of delivering non timber forest products is financially and culturally much more beneficial for local people than the production of charcoal and that long-term benefit outweighs short-term gains. Edible fungi: an important source of food and income in tropical Africa. Charcoal and edible fungi on sale in Katanga (Democratic Republic of the Congo). The edible Cantharellus ruber grows abundantly in Zambezian woodlands. Understanding ecosystems 18 19

12 (Re-)connecting plants and people Everywhere on the planet specific plant and fungi species have provided local populations with food, energy, materials for housing and tools, fibres for clothing and medicines. In many parts of the world plants remain the primary elements in fighting hunger, disease and extreme poverty. Plants also often figure in cultural expressions and religion. Nowadays, cultural plant knowledge is being lost and with it the vital connections we have with plants and fungi. Our researchers record how plants and fungi are used so that this knowledge can be shared and distributed. Our scientists ability to identify plants, even from tiny or ancient remains, contributes to fields as diverse as forensic investigation and archaeology, thus constantly identifying and establishing links between plants and people. Bryophytes and other plant remains from excavations of Roman sites: a window on pre-industrial flora To reconstruct life from the past, archaeologists need to study a whole range of evidence. This includes the remains of buildings, spectacular columns, fragments of pottery and also includes the remains of animals and plants from sediments. In 213, the Botanic Garden helped archeologists from the Flemish Heritage Agency and NPO Agilas by identifying and interpreting plant material from several excavations in Flanders. Specifically, we were asked to study seeds, fruits and bryophytes from sediments located in the deeper sections of a Roman well in the Roman settlement of Asse (near the centre of the modern village of Asse). Three samples of sediment were sieved and plant macro remains collected. Despite rather poor conditions for preservation, since the Roman era, 5 species of vascular plants and 9 species of mosses were successfully identified along with the charred remains of grains of corn. It was likely that most remains came from the immediate vicinity of the well in the Asse settlement and from nearby wet grasslands. The composition of moss species suggests the presence of forests in the neighborhood while other plants may have been selected for their medicinal properties. Several species introduced by the Romans were found including: Apium graveolens, Anethum graveolens and Prunus avium. Blackberries that were certainly collected from the wild were also preserved in the sediments. At a different location, the Roman fort at Oudenburg, two wells yielded extensive, well-preserved remains of bryophytes. It is likely that these were used to filter water. Plant material from archaeological sites provide us with a good insight of the flora over a millennium prior to the immense changes in land use and air quality resulting from the industrial revolution. The bulk of the bryophyte material consisted of pleurocarpous mat-forming species collected from tree stems and bases although terrestrial species were also gathered. In total, 45 species of bryophytes were identified providing insights into epiphytic and terrestrial bryoflora of that time. Many of the species had never been recorded in Flanders. Several of these were frequent or even dominant in the samples. Some of the identified species have returned to our countryside relatively recently as a result of European legislation reducing sulphur dioxide emissions, thus improving air quality. These species are increasing their distribution and in time will once again form species-rich mats of bryophytes in our woodlands. Individual moss leaf of the fox-tail feather moss (Thamnobryum alopecurum). Branch fragment of the fox-tail feather moss (Thamnobryum alopecurum) from a well in the Roman settlement at Oudenburg (first half 3 rd century AD). 2 21

13 A partial print of two leaves of Styrax officinalis on the grip of a Late Roman Sagalassos amphora ( Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project; Bruno Vandermeulen). Leafprints on amphorae at Sagalassos (SW-Turkey) An amphora is a type of container of a characteristic shape and size often utilised for transport and storage during the Roman Empire. Excavations at the archaeological site of Sagalassos in southwestern Turkey (1 km north of Antalya) discovered leaf impressions on Late Roman amphorae. This represented a thus far unique occurrence within the Roman world. The leaf impressions were so well preserved that they could be identified down to species level. During systematic archaeological excavations of the site (Prof. M. Waelkens and collaborators, KU Leuven) thousands of potsherds were found. Dr. Philip Bes recently discovered that a limited number of these had leafprints. A reference collection of herbarium specimens previously collected between 1997 and 24 in the historical area made it possible to identify the two plant species used for the prints, namely, Styrax officinalis and Vitis vinifera. Both species still occur within the vicinity of the archaeological site, with Styrax being well-known from antiquity for its fragrant resin. The amphorae leaf prints were placed in a rather standardised position on the collar, rim and grip of the container making it clear that this was a conscious step in the manufacturing process. Many questions remain about the significance of this occurrence: was it purely ornamental, did it have a specific function, and why does it only occur at a specific site? Maybe future excavations and finds will help solve some of these questions. Building capacity on environmental education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo The results of the partnership between our Garden and the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past 8 years have been very positive. The revival of botanical gardens and the recommencement of ex situ conservation answered the growing demand from national institutions. The sustainability of these positive outcomes, however, remain fragile because educating staff in technical skills remains in an early phase. To overcome the lack of technical skills, the Botanic Garden organised several training sessions on innovative topics related to ex situ conservation, botany and environmental education. Thanks to cooperation with l Ecole régionale post universitaire d Aménagement et de Gestion intégrés des Forêts et Territoires tropicaux (ERAIFT) and UNESCO the Workshop on Environmental Education was successfully organised in Kinshasa on 23 rd and 24 th September, 213. Its main objective was to promote environmental education among institutes responsible for nature conservation, schools, civil society and the media. In particular it aimed to highlight and support the preservation of biodiversity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Congo Basin. Around 6 participants from different institutions were present each day. During the first day 8 national and international experts introduced major themes on environmental education, such as: the definition of environmental education; urban nature; conservation (in situ and ex situ) of biodiversity; and threatened plants. Particular focus was given to the reality of nature conservation in the city of Kinshasa. The second day was dedicated to group work for which two themes were proposed: the importance of protecting biodiversity; and the role of environmental awareness in school education. Both these subjects looked at the current situation and prospects for the future. The exchanges were very interesting and dynamic, each group provided robust proposals for the inclusion of these topics in their respective institutes. Participants showed keen interest in the topics of the workshop and requested additional technical training and materials such as books, manuals, pamphlets and posters. Our Garden published the proceedings of the workshop and reprinted a poster on the importance of plants in the life of man, which have been distributed to all stakeholders. Participants of Workshop on Environmental Education. (Re-)connecting plants and people 22 23

14 Goat s rue (Galega officinalis) ( wikipedia, Epibase). The killer in the haystack Our Garden has many important and varied roles. This is an account of just one of those. A veterinarian working for Animal Health Care Flanders ( Dierengezondheidszorg Vlaanderen ) needed to find out why a flock of sheep he was asked to inspect were dying. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to receive help at other institutions he contacted the Belgian Poison Centre. There he was told they were unable to help but advised him to contact the Botanic Garden. Soon after a large bag filled with hay was delivered to the Garden. In previous days over 3 sheep on a single farm in the vicinity of Antwerp had died. The veterinarian suspected that hay from a recently opened bale was responsible. Our researchers therefore screened the hay for the presence of poisonous plants. The bag was emptied onto a large table. Not being of the highest quality, the hay smelled unpalatable. Many stems and leaves were covered with a white mould. Due to the lack of sporangia a mycologist failed to identify the mould, but he doubted there was a link with the sudden mortality of sheep. Meanwhile the hay was screened for other possible culprits. Next to several different grass species and a few prickly fragments of brambles were numerous stems of something that looked like a vetch (Vicia). Close inspection yielded sufficient material for a positive identification from the Botanic Garden s herbarium collections, although it was a surprise. Rather than a native species, the dried fragments proved to be goat s rue (Galega officinalis), naturally restricted to South, Central and Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. It is a rather attractive herbaceous perennial, sometimes cultivated as an ornamental. Goat s rue has been listed as a rare exotic species in Belgium since the 19 th century, but it appears that it is persisting and expanding its distribution in a small number of locations across Belgium. A little more research revealed that when present in hay, goat s rue is life-threatening to animals, especially sheep. Furthermore, the symptoms exhibited by the dying sheep perfectly matched the effects this plant can have as recorded in the veterinary literature. Further investigations revealed that in previous years, this plant had been recorded by a botanist in the vicinity of the grassland where the hay had been cut. This population probably originated from plants discarded from a nearby garden. In total, 38 sheep died over a few days and 3 tons of hay was destroyed. It is a sad story, but the incident offered haystack science (an unpleasant, denigrating 19 th -century description of herbarium-based botany) a nice opportunity to prove its worth. Inspiring and informing The Garden is home to 18, different kinds of plant, set within 92 hectares of historical domain. It is a beautiful, diverse, green space and a source of enjoyment, wonder and inspiration tempting about 1, visitors per year. Using a broad spectrum of plant displays, museum artefacts, webpages, science communication tools, events, informal learning, awareness instruments and experience-based educational activities, the Garden has the potential to change people s understanding of the importance of plants for human well-being and to emphasise the vital importance of plant conservation. Building on this understanding, the Garden can stimulate people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to act in a sustainable and responsible way. 38 sheep died in the vicinity of Antwerp

15 Expanding our Magnolia collection Plants that bite back: establishing an important reference collection of carnivorous plants at Meise Magnolia Limelight, a wonderful yellow flowering magnolia. The genus Magnolia represents a highly attractive group of flowering shrubs and trees. During 213, we decided to expand our collection, initially established in the early 198s. Since these first plantings the wealth of new cultivars has risen considerably, while a noticeable warming of the climate has meant less hardy Chinese species have a real chance of surviving Belgian winters. Over the course of 213, the Garden enlarged its collection by 32 new taxa swelling the existing collection to 71 (85 accessions). New acquisitions include rare Chinese species: Magnolia biondii; M. doltsopa; M. zenii; the exquisite M. sargentiana var. robusta; the tender M. campbellii; and M. sprengeri var. sprengeri. American taxa were represented by M. virginiana var. australis, a tender evergreen from south-east USA. Magnolia season always attracts the public to our Garden, therefore stunning new hybrids and cultivars complement the botanical species. These include the yellow-flowering cultivars: Limelight, Sundance and Yellow Lantern ; the deep purple Black Tulip ; pinkflowered Flamingo ; the unusual form of M. loebneri Mag s Pirouette ; and selections from the USA and New Zealand, such as David Clulow, Daybreak, Atlas, Galaxy, Spectrum, and Star Wars. All these magnolias can be viewed along a self-guided magnolia walk that takes the visitor in different parts of the Garden including the M. stellata-group near the Herbarium building, hardy hybrids around the Plant Palace, botanical species in the Fruticetum and tender hybrids in the Woodland Garden and surrounds of the Orangery. During 212 and 213, our Garden developed a living reference collection of carnivorous plant species. Previously, Meise kept a modest collection mainly housing material originating from cultivation. Carnivorous plants have always fascinated botanists and horticulturalists due to their remarkable abilities to capture and digest invertebrates and even small frogs and mammals with their modified leaves serving as traps. The most common natural habitat for these plants are bogs and marshes where water is abundant and nutrient concentrations low. These areas are continually destroyed through land drainage and eutrophication. Along with over-collecting, this has led to many species being threatened by extinction. Meise increased its collections by 169 accessions (121 botanical species), of which 46.7% are of known wild origin. Living representatives of: Cephalotaceae (Cephalotus); Droseraceae (Aldrovanda, Dionaea, Drosera); Drosophyllaceae (Drosophyllum); Lentibulariaceae (Genlisea, Pinguicula, Utricularia); Nepenthaceae (Nepenthes); and Sarraceniaceae (Darlingtonia, Heliamphora, Sarracenia) serve as an important reference collection. Learning and discovering Pinguicula rotundiflora at the Botanic Garden. Planting bulbs of Crocus chrysanthus Blue Pearl by hand. Meise lights up spring with 4, bulbs Collectively, the Botanic Garden curates hundreds of different bulbous species. Until 213, these bulbs, corms and tubers were predominantly displayed in small groups, or in isolation. We decided that there was a need for larger, more impressive displays that would complement the richness of naturally occurring spring bulbs such as snowdrop, (Galanthus nivalis), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) and ramsons (Allium ursinum). Over a few weeks in autumn, volunteers, gardeners and assistant curators planted over 4, bulbs by hand. Focus centered on outdoor lawned areas that were easily visible from the main paths and thus frequently visited by the public. These areas included the main entrance, the Castle and the area surrounding the Plant Palace. The spring of 214 is expected to herald drifts of spring flowers: Narcissus Carlton ; Crocus chrysanthus Cream Beauty, Blue Pearl ; Crocus tommasinianus Ruby Giant, Whitewell Purple ; Crocus vernus Flower Record, Jeanne d Arc, Remembrance, Yellow Mammoth, Striped Beauty ; Ornithogalum umbellatum; and Fritillaria meleagris. Offering children the opportunity to discover the world of botany is one of the goals of our Botanic Garden. Our participation in INQUIRE, a pan-european education project on inquiry-based science education (IBSE), offered our education staff a fine opportunity to strengthen our collaboration with the Flemish Education Department. When the project concluded in November 213, we could look back on three years of exploring the possibilities of IBSE, together with highly motivated teachers, teachers trainers and educators. Inquiry-based education had recently become an important item in the new Flemish school curriculum, but it was evident that many teachers and education stakeholders did not feel familiar or comfortable with this new methodology. Consequently, we decided to share our experiences with educational advisors by offering a portfolio of evidence from the INQUIRE project. As a result of the Garden s contacts with education policy makers and advisors, the Flemish Association of Catholic Secondary Education (VVKSO) organised a one-day conference at our Garden to help address the educational stakeholders needs. This included hands-on inquiry-based activities in our glasshouses. We offered a similar program to several groups of teachers trainees and we plan to strengthen our relationship with the teacher training institutes in the future. Photosynthesis experiment as an example of Inquiry-based scientific education. Inspiring and informing 26 27

16 An exceptional botanical year in the Plant Palace The Grundtvig Project Botanic Gardens: new tools for environmental education Flower truss of Strongylodon macrobotrys in the Mabundu House. Agave attenuata flowering in the Monsoon House. Every year thousands of taxa thrive in the sheltered environment of the Plant Palace. In 213, however, we experienced three rather exceptional events. During spring the jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) developed seed pods for the first time in Belgian history. During the summer the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) flowered once more, and at the end of autumn the swan s neck agave (Agave attenuata) came into bloom. The jade vine is a lush growing liana native to tropical and humid dipterocarp forests of the Philippines. Due to extensive deforestation in its native range, populations have been greatly reduced and consequently, it is considered by many to be vulnerable to extinction. Seeds are seldom produced in cultivation because its flowers rely on bats to pollinate its showy, luminescent blue-green blooms as they feed on nectar. In the absence of its pollinators we carefully hand-pollinated several flowers by attempting to mimic the feeding behavior of bats. As a result, two large seed pods grew with viable seeds, marking it a unique occurrence in Belgium. Once ripe, the seeds were sown immediately because they lack a dormancy mechanism and thus cannot be stored. Twenty plants developed which will now be distributed to other gardens and institutes. Visitors once again marveled at the flowering of the titan arum in 213. This plant has provided a regular show (on average every 3 months) since its initial inflorescence opened in August 28. As with its other flowering events, thousands of visitors flocked to witness the giant inflorescence that reached 2.42 m in July. Perhaps even more amazing was the incredible size of its large corm that weighed an incredible 13 kg in the summer of 213. We understand that this is the largest corm ever recorded in the world and is therefore a record breaker. Prior to its first flowering 28, the corm weighed 1 kg. In 21, it increased to 47 kg, but nobody could have imagined the subsequent enormous growth rate. Finally, the swan s neck agave that has resided in the collection for 15 years ended the year of spectacular events by producing a spectacular flowering stalk. Unlike most agaves, the large rosettes of soft leaves are thorn-free and the flowering stalk is unbranched. The abundant yellow-green flowers are an impressive sight and heavy enough to weigh down the flowering stalk to form a graceful arch that gives the swan s neck agave its name. In 213, the Botanic Garden successfully completed its involvement in the Grundtvig project, part of the EU s Lifelong Learning Program ( ). The project focused on guides and educators who hold responsible roles in Botanic Gardens: trusted with the mission to convey enthusiasm about botanical research and environmental awareness to visitors. Our Garden worked with two partners, the botanic gardens of Madrid and Florence. Together we successfully mastered peer-topeer training and held educational site visits. A major success of the project was the development of a new garden tour with supporting interpretation material, a website and a toolkit. These are now available in the partners gardens but have also been made available to botanic gardens and education networks beyond the institutes. The work of the guides and educators was greatly valued and some developed new topics for existing tours, new skills and activities, such as a guided tour for the blind and visually impaired. Special events were organised for teachers, environmental educators, tourist guides and the general public. The project was evaluated as excellent by European Union assessors. A new tour for blind and visually impaired visitors Prior to 213, there was no specific provision for blind and partially sighted visitors to our Garden. However, due to the enthusiasm of one of our guides and the Educational Department, a project specifically for the blind moved from idea to reality. This achievement was a significant outcome of the Grundtvig Project, which enabled this guide to grow in confidence and experience. In order for the project to reach its goal, she attended training sessions on how to guide blind and partially sighted visitors in museums and outdoors. She then met with blind people and specialists working in this field. This experience taught her about the different types of visual impairment and provided an opportunity to discuss how a tour should be designed to interact with blind people. As the concept progressed, special materials (3D maps) were purchased while focused displays were arranged with plants and 3D models. Try-out sessions were organised with small groups of blind people in order to develop and improve the activities. The launch of the new tour was announced on our website, through a press campaign and by inviting organisations who specifically work with blind people during the first ever federal Diversity Day on the theme of disability. The tour is becoming a great success with those organisations now booking for their blind and partially sighted members. VIP Day for teachers at Meise. Guided visit with a visually impaired group, lead by the guide who designed the tour. Inspiring and informing 28 29

17 Bringing our heritage to life During its long history the Garden has constantly been collecting and creating a wide range of botanical collections, living plants, books, artefacts, instruments but also buildings, glasshouses and landscapes. Many of these elements still play an active role in our current work; books and archives are consulted by researchers, historic glasshouses protect plant collections and buildings and landscapes are visited and enjoyed by our visitors. This extensive patrimony requires constant specialised care and upkeep and is an irreplaceable source to develop innovative approaches to better fulfill the mission of the Garden in a changing world. Botanical curiosities coming out of the basement Lying untouched for more than half a century in the basement of the Herbarium building, rests a huge historical treasure trove of botanical objects and curiosities preserved in glass jars. In 213, work started to examine, record and restore the collection. A large percentage of the collection dates back to the second half of the 19 th century, gathered by passionate, inspired individuals on epic explorations with none of the luxuries of modern travel and communication. Each of the jars are dusted, their contents meticulously examined, and available data checked against archival data. The information and observations are then introduced into a database. The core of the collection is formed from the Fruit and seed and Product and drug collections of Carl von Martius purchased by the Belgian Government at the time of the foundation of our Botanic Garden in 187. Pharmacists, missionaries and botanists (e.g. Peckolt, Wullschlägel, Glaziou, Teijsmann and von Müller) provided von Martius with a range of material from Brazil, Suriname, Asia and Australia. The oldest specimen currently discovered dates back to 1848 and forms part of a series of 52 well-documented tea varieties from Carl von Martius brother Theodor. This treasure trove of botanical objects also contains specimens from: the first three Universal Exhibitions in Paris (1855, 1867 and 1878); objects from the Musée des Colonies françaises in Paris; a collection of Indian economic products; and one of Algerian medicinal and industrial items. In addition to these there are important collections from notable individuals, such as Bernardin and Delacre. Friar Bernardin (around ) was a teacher at the High School of Melle near Ghent. He collected mostly plant fibres, oils and fats. Their outstanding quality won him prizes at international exhibitions and he even received a decoration from King Leopold II. Ambroise Delacre was a pharmacist who collected medicinal plants. Ambroise s father, also a pharmacist, founded the famous biscuit factory Delacre in Vilvoorde, after he decided not only to sell chocolate for its strengthening qualities in his pharmacy, but also to use it in delicacies that were soon very much appreciated by the wealthy of the time. Individually, the objects in this historical collection are botanical curiosities representing a wealth of diverse objects. Tropical fruits nestle beside seeds, vegetal oils, fibers, cocoa chips, annatto, indigo, tea leaves, coffee beans, a torch impregnated with plant oil, a rosary of gombo fruits, resin nuggets of opium, incense and myrrh. In 213, ca. 1% of the collection was curated. We can hardly wait to find out what other exquisite items will be revealed in the coming years. Bark of Galipea officinalis (Angostura trifoliata) from the von Martius collection. Extract of Pilocarpus pennatifolius del Paraguay from A. Demarchi, pharmacist in Buenos Aires, in its original triangular bottle ( ). 3 31

18 As nature shows them. Nature printings: a hidden treasure in the library Johann Hieronymus Kniphof, Botanica in Originali, seu herbarium vivum (Halle: J.G. Trampe, ). Henry Baildon, Nature printed ferns. Prepared according to his new patented process (London: L. Reeve & Co., 1869). Nature printing is the term given to a range of techniques that make direct prints from natural objects such as leaves and flowers. The library of the Botanic Garden houses one of the finest known collections of nature printing. Many have been curated over a long period, but in 213, this collection was enriched considerably by purchase of a collection by Cornelia Pompe (The Hague ). This comprised of 137 original botanical drawings that combined natureprinted leaves (1 to 3 per page) with images produced by watercolour. In the past, nature printing offered an alternative to herbarium specimens because dried vouchers were prone to attack by insects. It also provided an accurate and affordable alternative to botanical illustration. Over the centuries a number of different processes were used for this purpose. The first known application was in a copy of Dioscurides Herbal from the 13 th century that resides in the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul. Leonardo da Vinci described the simplest form of nature printing at the end of the 15 th century. This process involved a natural object coated with a carbon-rich substance mixed with oil known as lamp black. Once coated the object was carefully pressed onto paper to leave an accurate impression. Various examples of nature printing are known between the 15 th and 17 th centuries. At the end of this period, lamp black was replaced by ink and the printing press used to press the coated object onto paper. During the 18 th century this technique was increasingly applied to the field of botanical imaging (although in a limited circulation). The German naturalist Kniphof produced a wide range of nature prints and was able to commercialise this activity. During the 19 th century, the art of nature printing increased in complexity and demanded specific equipment. This extended to the process of engraving by a highly skilled practitioner. This new element transformed the process by creating a mould that would reproduce the replica image for as many times as was required. This method led to the galvanoplastic technique developed in Austria by Aloys Auer and in Britain by Henry Bradbury. The lithographic technique meanwhile was used in Belgium by Houba, in France by Ansberque and in Britain by Baildon. The impressive nature printing collection curated by the Botanic Garden has various origins including the library of the Horticultural Society of Belgium, an ancestor to our Garden, while others were purchased or donated by generous benefactors. Over the past few years the library has acquired four major works depicting nature printed illustrations: Ectypa vegetabilium by Christiaan Gottlieb Ludwig, published in Halle by Trampe between 176 and 1764; Physiotypia plantarum Autriacarum by Constantin van Ettingshausen, published in Vienna in 1855; Nature-printed ferns by Henry Baildon, published in London in 1869; Herbier de la flore française by Cusin and Ansberque, published in Villeurbane between 1867 and The wealth of nature printing material at Meise has allowed us to hold two symposiums depicting the process and highlighting our collections. These allowed us to write two articles on nature printing in 213, promoting this technique to a wider audience. The first paper, given at the symposium Traces du végétal held at the University of Angers was the result of collaboration between the library and Sandrine de Borman, an artist in residence at the Garden. Its aim was to gain more insight into the technique of nature-printing and its evolution from scientific illustration to contemporary art. The second paper was presented at the symposium Le livre illustré en Belgique ( ) held at the Royal Library of Belgium. After a lecture summarising the different processes of nature printing, the object of the presentation was the study of a book from our collections, the sole Belgian witness of this technique, les Chênes de l Amérique septentrionale en Belgique written by Julien Houba and published in Julien Houba, Les chênes de l Amérique septentrionale en Belgique, leur origine, leur [sic] qualités, leur avenir (Hasselt: Michel Ceysens, 1887). Cornelia Pompe, botanical watercolour drawing on paper, with specimens of directly nature printed leaves. Bringing our heritage to life 32 33

19 Dusting off our archives to recognise their true values Wikipedia: a valued yet under-utilised encyclopaedia Order from chaos: hundreds of acid-free boxes are filled with documents that were previously muddled and distributed far and wide. This is a first step to modern and professional archives management. Over the last few decades archives have piled up at the Botanic Garden in what could be described as assumed and somehow functional anarchy. Many potentially important archives have been stored in inappropriate locations around the site for too long and only come to light when staff members retire or clear their offices. Many archives were maintained in unsuitable conditions for their conservation, were unrecorded and for those that did appear in an inventory often existed with mistakes. This undervalued the archives greatly along with all the work they represented and meant they were unsearchable and thus could fail to aid future research. In 213, our Garden decided that its archives deserved more attention. An archivist was hired and huge amounts of records were gathered up and placed in a room with minimum humidity and an appropriate temperature. Since most data about the individuals producing the archives were lost, our fledgling home archivist began the painstaking task to decipher who produced what, how and when. This important process helps to create series and other archival categories needed to develop a much-awaited improved inventory. As this process continued, hundreds of archives were (and still are) placed onto conservation-grade paper sheets and placed into acid-free archive boxes. Appraisal schedules were then developed for the institute helping to manage the archives with accuracy and facilitate the elimination of items of no interest to historians, botanists or other individuals. This is especially rigorous because all archives over 3 years old officially become the legal property of Belgian State Archive. However, there is an agreement that these historic documents are retained at the Botanic Garden and utilised for research. It is anticipated that a new inventory will be completed in the next few years allowing for the first time lots of documents to be accessible to botanists, historians, art historians and many other individuals interested in the past, present and future of our institution. Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia based on an openly editable model. This means that the content can be edited freely by anybody who wishes to do so. As part of the Botanic Garden s contribution to the Paris Institut des sciences de la communication (CNRS) workshop Wikipédia, objet scientifique non identifié, held in June 213, we wanted to explore the attitudes of this online resource by the scientific staff at Meise. The results of a survey revealed: Most researchers use Wikipedia frequently for their own work and for other disciplines; Information is regarded reliable, yet despite this facts are also checked using additional sources; Despite the perceived value of Wikipedia, Meise scientists rarely contribute to its content considering it to be time wasted. The attitudes of staff are interesting. Scientists of the Garden not only have the expertise, but also privileged access to botanical and scientific literature. Reluctance to contribute to Wikipedia means that our botanists are looking for information (written by scientists), without making the connection that their contributions would also help the wider scientific community. By sharing their expertise on Wikipedia they would not only be contributing to this ideal but also have a fantastic opportunity to showcase their own scientific work to the world and support one of our Garden s missions to popularise science. For more information see the CNRS website: cnrs.fr/spip.php?article1738 Bringing our collections to life through historical research In 213, the Garden historians published a wide range of articles using material from our extensive archives. While most scientists tend to pay attention to the present and the future, they should not forget that their activities and their institution are deeply rooted in the past and in tradition. Herbaria and the data related to them, along with other archives and historic publications, give us clues about what may lie in the future for our institution. But history is not only meant to serve botanists, it also proves smart entertainment for visitors (and a job for people interested in humanities). Publication topics in 213 included: the complicated relationship between the Botanic Garden and the Royal Botanic Society of Belgium ( ); impact of democratising Belgium on the Botanic Garden s activities ( ); impact of Darwinism on late 19 th century Belgium; emerging ecological consciousness in the same period; and contributions on Belgian scientists and plant-hunters for a historical dictionary. All this fervent activity was appreciated both nationally and internationally when the Garden s historians were asked to: peer review articles; collaborate on academic and editorial projects; and give numerous presentations in Belgium and abroad, in both academic and public contexts. Moreover, this expertise is also utilised in a range of projects like the one devoted to the future of the famous Jardin écologique Jean Massart, in Brussels. It is thus not surprising, with all this activity, that the number of inquiries steadily increased in the Library (and Archives) during 213. The cradle of ecological concerns in Belgium? The 1893 Royal Botanical Society annual field excursion under the leadership of Fr. Crépin ( ). 1958, Director W. Robyns gives a speech during the inauguration of the not-yet-finished Plant Palace. Bringing our heritage to life 34 35

20 Organisation Obituary Jean Léonard ( ) Our Garden is an ever-changing organisation with about 18 members of staff, 7 volunteers and 2 guides. The domain, which covers 92 hectares, houses about 5 buildings where people work, meet and preserve plant collections. One of the challenges will be to prepare our Garden for transition. Indeed, it is absolutely essential that the Garden becomes less dependent on fossil fuels and reduces its environmental impact. Numerous responses will have to be developed on all levels of the Garden. On April 23 rd Professor Jean Léonard passed away aged 93. He worked in the Garden from 1968 until long past his official retirement in He first became acquainted with our Garden s herbarium in 1942 studying for his Master s degree in Botany at the Free University of Brussels (ULB). A year later he worked as a collaborator to the Cellule Flore du Congo in the Institut national pour l Étude agronomique du Congo (INEAC) where he was seconded to the State Botanic Garden in Brussels, acquiring his Ph.D. on African flora , Léonard worked at Eala Botanic Garden in Belgian Congo later being appointed Curator of the National Herbarium of Congo in Yangambi. He returned to our botanic Garden and became co-founder of AETFAT ( Association pour l Étude taxonomique de la flore d Afrique tropicale ) in 195. This organisation s aim is to promote the exchange of knowledge between botanists working in neighbouring African countries. Jean Léonard demonstrated his enthusiasm for AETFAT s mission and later became its Permanent Secretary. In the 196s while working at the Garden he was appointed by the Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique (Brussels) working on African floristics and vegetation and in particular Euphorbiaceae. From 1964 to 1965, he returned to the field with a Belgian military expedition, crossed the Sahara Desert and studied the flora of Libya (which he later led an expedition to in 1969). In Northern Chad, he observed strange, green cakes eaten by locals. Microscopic investigation identified them as Spirulina platensis (synonym of Arthrospira platensis) a food with a very high protein content. Léonard s discovery made both him and Spirulina famous. It is now used as a dietary supplement worldwide. Some years later, Léonard was seen cruising the Lake Chad with the French Office de la recherche scientifique et technique d outre-mer (ORSTOM) in order to make further study on this species. In 1968, the Cellule Flore du Congo, formerly part of the Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique was officially transferred to the Jardin botanique national de Belgique where he and a team of scientists found their new home. As an AETFAT stalwart, between 1953 and 1976, Jean Léonard provided botanists with an annual bibliography on Sub-Saharan systematic botany and an annual index of the newly described taxa from that area. In the early Eighties he began with his Contribution à l étude de la flore et de la végétation des déserts d Iran (1 vol., ). This major work originated in the specimens he had collected previously in 1972 when he took part in an interdisciplinary expedition in Iran. Léonard remained active on the African Euphorbiaceae for many years publishing his last masterpiece: Flore et végétation du Jebel Uweinat (Désert de Libye: Libye, Égypte, Sudan) (6 vol., ). During his career Jean Léonard authored over 2 papers, described one family (Lepidobotryaceae), a dozen new genera and hundreds of new species. At the age of 8 he finally retired commenting that he wanted to leave science before: my scientific accuracy became blunt. The Garden remembers his outstanding contributions. Jean Léonard in 212. The AETFAT founders at the 6 th plenary meeting in Upssala in 1966 : Jean Léonard, Arthur Wallis Excell and Edgar Milne-Redhead

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