Botanical scouting

I spent a beautiful spring day last week in one of Brussels’ most fairy-tale-like places: the botanical garden Jean Massart.

Springtime visits to the botanical garden, that’s abundant flowers wherever you look! Here: Fritillaria meleagris, a rare species planted – and thriving – in the botanical garden

This little piece of biodiversity sits in a picturesque valley bordering the E411 highway and that famous chunk of Brussels forest called the Sonian Forest.

Anemone nemorosa, the wood anemone

Of course, I wasn’t there just for the picture-perfect flowers: I was there to do some scouting for a potential new – and pretty exciting – project. If we get it all figured out, we’d be using this beautiful garden as our laboratory for an important research question: can botanical gardens play a role as microclimate refugia in urban areas?

The botanical garden hosts some replicas of highly biodiverse grasslands, so typical – and endangered – for Flanders. One of the show-offs on this April afternoon was this Primula veris

Requirements for this are two-fold: a vast range of microclimatic conditions, resulting from a highly heterogeneous landscape, and a high biodiversity.

A patch of relatively dense forest at the bottom of a valley, the dream-location for stable and relatively cool microclimatic conditions, even close to the city of Brussels

If all goes well, we’ll find both these requirements fulfilled at the botanical garden Jean Massart, but the extent of both remains to be quantified. That’s all I’ll say about it now, so stay tuned for hopefully the start of something new and promising!

Anemone nemorosa was thriving in the forest understory
If you say Flemish forest in spring, you say Hyacinthoides non-scripta
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