Meise Botanic Garden (MBG)’s History goes back to 1796 and is one of the 10 largest botanic gardens and 15 largest herbarium in the world, with a domain of 92 hectares and holding 4 million preserved specimens, a rich botanical library, a seedbank and a living plant collection with 18000 different taxa from all around the around the world. Research topics are about taxonomy, biodiversity conservation, evolution, ecosystems and ethnobotany. The Garden has molecular facilities and is editor and co-editor of several scientific Journals. The MBG is an active member of the several networks: botanic gardens, libraries and herbaria and is exchanging information and specimens with other scientific institutes worldwide. For example, in 2017, 1,387 preserved specimens were sent on loan and 2,749 samples of living collections were sent to other institutes or individual researchers. The number of research visitors was 118, representing c.800 visitor days. The total number of visitors, including the general public, amounts to c. 150,000 a year.
The preserved collections (i.a. herbarium, wood samples, carpological, slides and molecular collections) have a global geographical scope, with a focus on Central Africa (> 500.000 specimens), Belgium, South-West Europe and South-East Asia, with additionally important historic collections from Latin America, India, and Australia. To highlight are the private collections of famous 19th botanists such as Van Heurck (diatoms), Von Martius (Flora brasiliensis),von Reichenbach (Orchids) and Crépin (wild roses) as part of the historic core of the collections.
MBG also manages a seed bank and living collections with more than 25 000 accessions of about 18 000 different taxa. These facilities are open for scientific visits as well. Examples of topics are studies related to crop wild relatives, including our large collections on coffee, bananas, cacao and wild legumes (with a large collections of beans). The collections are also important for conservation activities linked to endemic and endangered species from Belgium and D.R. Congo, namely the endemics from copper hills in Katanga.
The living collections hold a wide diversity of plants from all over the world: the outdoor collection has i.a. a wide diversity of temperate trees species; the indoor collection houses a wide (sub)tropical plants (i.a. Rubiaceae, Balsaminiaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Cycadaceae and Araceae as well as collections from the Congo Basin).
The large library & archives are also part of the services offered with over 200 000 volumes linked to Botany and botanical history. The collections hold interesting documents on the history of the garden and of botany in general.
The scientific and technical expertise of MBG is summarized here as examples of services offered. Interested scientific visitors with novel and innovative ideas on the usage of our collections are encouraged to take up contact. All our facilities listed here, including, preserved collections, seedbanks, green houses and outdoor living collections, molecular laboratories, digitization facilities, library and archives are open to applicants.
MBG has extensive taxonomic expertise in vascular plants, fungi, lichens, diatoms, macro-algae, and myxomycetes. Furthermore MBG has a significant expertise in activities around alien and invasive species.
Available equipment includes a Scanning Electron Microscope; digital camera facilities for rapid specimen digitisation; digital microscopes with a large depth-of-field for imaging lichens, myxomycetes and seeds; high quality stereo- and bright-field microscopes, as well as laboratory facilities for preparation of plant, fungal and algal material for light or electron microscopy (including sectioning, embedding, staining, and oxidation).
The molecular laboratory includes equipment for processing of Sanger sequencing, and plant genotyping analyses. Standard equipment includes centrifuges, a plate centrifuge for bulk DNA extractions, PCR thermal cyclers, and gel staining facilities. The molecular laboratory has also recently invested in equipment for preparing DNA libraries for high-throughput sequencing including shotgun sequencing, genome skimming approached and targeted DNA sequencing.
Interested historians can consult letters, photograph collections, including glass plates. It is one of the most important botanical libraries in Europe with valuable complementary archives to the herbaria and living collections.
Finally, MBG has long-term expertise in botanical illustrations, which visitor can benefit from.
If you would like more information on MBG's facilities, please contact the team at synthesys_TA@plantentuinmeise.be