Botanic Garden Meise- OUR SCIENTISTS
Botany and history
My main research interests are the alien flora of Belgium and the history of botany in the 19th and 20th centuries. Initially I focused on the spread of C4-grasses in maize fields in Flanders. For my current research I moved from the agricultural landscape to plant nurseries and garden centres. I concentrate on the world-wide network of the horticultural trade and its consequences for the introduction and spread of exotic plant species in Western Europe. Inclusion of human activities and human history in the research questions is important for an understanding of the causes that trigger invasions or change in the course of the naturalisation processes of plant species. Topics and plants that receive special attention include the importation of Mediterranean container plants (olive, palm trees, etc.), the genera Cardamine (especially C. corymbosa, originally from New Zealand) and Oxalis species.
Themes in the history of botany in Belgium include the reception of Darwin’s theory of evolution; the key role played by the self-educated botanist and later director of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium François Crépin (1830–1903); discussions among botanists about the acceptance or rejection of non-indigenous plant species; the emerging consciousness of environmental degradation; the rarefication of a growing number of plant species and the ensuing need for nature conservation, etc.
As member of a team of authors I am involved in the preparation of a new edition of the Nouvelle Flore de la Belgique / Flora van België, and since 2002 I work as editor of Dumortiera, the Belgian journal for field botany.
Since the 1970s the Kraenepoel in Aalter (province of East Flanders), a pond with a rich flora, fauna and history, has remained one of my favorite excursion destinations. [pdf]