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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Jardain Massart

In mid July 2014 while briefly in Belgium I was able to visit the botanical gardens one of which was the Jardin botanique expérimental Jean Massart or  Plantentuin Jean Massart in Auderghem/Oudergem one of the nineteen townships which form the Brussels Capital Region.
It is on fifteen hectares of agricultural land and has a collection of around 200 species. It listed as one of the museums of l'Université libre de Bruxelles.

The grounds are expansive (it is fifteen hectares after all) so it really should be taken as a whole day visit or even multiple day visit, unless you just want to wander through. For the amateur botanist or photo enthusiast it would be at the very least a two day expedition. Unfortunately I only had half a day so I was unable to get photos of all the plants I would have liked to and did not get to see everything such as the Wetlands and the Beehive display.
Entry to one area of the Greenhouse, with the small pond and succulents
 The garden is made of of several distinctly separate gardens / areas so it should more correctly be referred to as gardens rather than the singular. These are separated by and accessed via a series of paths, broad gravel paths or smaller paths, although in some areas you can just wander around under the trees. There is a greenhouse which had a small pond, a selection of succulents and cacti as well as a whole bunch of tomatoes which I think were an experiment of some sort or maybe just different species/varieties. There is also an orchard with all sorts of varieties of fruit trees. These are heirloom species and include a variety of apples and pears. It was only later on when I did a bit of research that I realised that that small orchard represents a small if very important part in safeguarding European biodiversity since with the predominance of monoculture in farming and the dominance of the market by a very small handful of fruit (or other farm produce) many old species that were staples have been supplanted by the more cosmetically marketable varieties which means that many of the varieties that could be found in orchards or the wild have disappeared, cut down to be replaced by one or two varieties. (Sorry I should probably do a separate post on that issue given its importance).
Water lilies in the Greenhouse pond

There is also a central area with all sorts of herbs and plants with medicinal / pharmaceutical value planted in sections according to their properties or their families. There is also the wetlands area consisting of a large pond with marsh and bog plants and water lilies as well as some water fowl, fish, amphibians and assorted denizens of wetlands. There are also a number of beehives strategically spread out all over the place as well as a display hive in which you can examine and watch the inside of a working hive. I only found out about that after I got back and read the pamphlet I'd pick up on the way in.
a model of a beehive with sections cut out to show the interior, in one corner of the orchard, alongside a traditional woven basket beehive

I was so annoyed with myself not only for not reading the pamphlet earlier. Unfortunately I was too busy taking photos and admiring the plants and industrious bees of all varieties (they have quite a few species of bees ... well members of the various Families of Bees in the Super Family Apoidea. I really cannot say more because I did not find any information on that. No doubt they probably had some information at the display hive.

At least now I how I need to contact next time I am in Brussels to talk about bees for a few bee related posts/articles I have been wanting to do. Hopefully I will also be able to get an opportunity to take some good photos of bees and hives not to mention some help in identifying some of the bees I have photographed so far.

Another good thing about this botanical garden is that many plants are labelled which was helpful as that will speed things up when I get around to doing posts on them. Some I already knew but even with those in some cases knowing the exact species of a genus will cut down on the time spent trying to figure out which species I am looking at, especially since some are very similar and it is only by examination of other plant features that you can discern which species it is. That can be problematic if all you have is a photograph of the flower, although I have been trying to also take photos of other parts of the plants. But that usually is because it has an interesting leaf structure or colour or some other visually striking thing about the plant.
Also I do not think that the guardians would be too happy if I was to start dissecting flowers, fruit and seed pods to do macro photos showing the interior parts or pulling them up to take photos of the roots, bulbs and rhizomes. The photos like that that I have taken were all of my plants and usually those that I was in the process of planting, re-potting or transplanting.

Here is a concise list of the sections / distinct gardens and other areas that you can find at the Massart Botanical Gardens:

  • An arboretum of indigenous and exotic plants.
  • An orchard with a variety of heritage fruit trees.
  • A garden of medician, aromatic and toxic plants (many of which have medicinal / pharmaceutical value  and have been used since antiquity and continue to be used today either directly in traditional European herbal medicine or having their essential / active components extracted and used in modern medicine or are the basis of synthesized versions)
  • A gardenof cultivated plants according to their function and use
  • An evolutionary garden of native and introduced flowers and plants grouped according to their place in terms of evolutionary development (The University of Bristol Botanical Garden has a similar display).
  • A wetland zone which is a natural reserve containing swamp/marsh  species and are linked to the neighbouring lakes of Rouge-Cloître.
  • Then there is the educational site related to wild and domesticated pollinators as well as the Bee Centre which is maintained by the Apiary Group Apis Bruoc Sella.

Chaussée de Wavre 1850, Auderghem

How to Get There:

Metro: Hermmann-Debroux

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