From the very early years of its existence, members of staff were interested in Belgian fungi. After Mrs E. Bommer & E. Rousseau, Elie Marchal was the first official mycologist (after 1882) to work on coprophilous species. P. Nypels (1865-1909) studied parasitic species. All existing data were summarised by De Wildeman in his monumental 'Prodrome de la flore de Belgique' (1898, 1899). The genera Ganoderma and Agaricus have been revised resp. by R.L. Steyaert (1905-1978) and P. Heinemann (1916-1996).These studies are developed following several themes:
- Systematics, ecology and floristics of different groups of fungi
Laboulbeniales (A. De Kesel)
The Belgian flora and fundamentals of host specificity of these micromycetes, parasitic on insects, has been intensively studied by A. De Kesel for his PhD. He screened the main Belgian insect collections for Laboulbeniales and studied these in detail. All these floristic data were coupled with the ecology and behaviour of the insect and infection mechanisms experimentally tested.
Amanita, Lactarius... (A. Fraiture)
Different contributions have been published a.o. on the systematics of European exannulate Amanita ('amanitopsis'), on the systematics and ecology of the genus Lactarius in Belgium, and other genera.
- Mycological diversity of the Brussels Capital Region (A. De Kesel, B. Vanholen)
An inventory and monitoring programme for macromycetes and lichens in the Brussels Capital Region has been started. This concerned mainly the forest 'Zoniënwoud', where forest management policies based on presence-absence and abundance of macromycete fungi have been elaborated. A study was made to search for macromycetes useful as bioindicators for broad scale estimation of environmental quality of forest plots. Lichens have been mapped for the whole Brussels Capital Region and their distribution related to air quality.
- Mycosociological studies of different forest types in southern Belgium (A. Fraiture)
The macrofungi of permanent plots have been regularly investigated and their abundance and ecology registered. The forest types that have been mostly studied are Quercus+Carpinus forests on calciferous clay, Quercus+Betula forests on acid soils, Fagus forests on acid soils and Picea abies forests on various kind of soils.
- Floristics, chorology and conservation of macromycetes in Belgium and Luxembourg.
Many floristic data have been accumulated and floristic notes published. Also over 150 distribution maps have been published. (A. Fraiture, A. De Kesel).
- Realization of an iconotheque (water-colour paintings) of the macromycetes, mainly Basidiomycetes
(O. Van de Kerckhove).
- Expertise of wood-decaying fungi in buildings (A. Fraiture, A. De Kesel).
The first studies of African mycology at the Garden were those of E. De Wildeman & Th. Durand (1899-1914). These were based on fieldwork by several collectors (e.g. A. Dewèvre, H. Vanderyst, Allard) and the determinations of several specialists. They described more than 450 taxa, 400 of which are new to science. The first to start with a more systematic study was M. Beeli (1879-1957). He encouraged Mrs Goossens-Fontana to collect many specimens (from 1900 onwards). These were very well documented and accompanied by water-colour paintings (more than 900). This remains an invaluable source of documentation. All these efforts culminated in the publication of the 'Flore Iconographique des champignons du Congo', later 'Flore illustrée des champignons d'Afrique centrale'. Working most of his active life in Africa, R.L. Steyaert was mainly interested in phytopathology and he specialised in Pestalotia, Monocaetia and Ganoderma. More recently J. Rammeloo (from 1972 onwards) continued the research on Central African fungi, in collaboration with P. Heinemann and many other specialists.
Staff members have actively collected and studied macromycetes south of the Sahara (Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Bénin). This in situ collecting, with extensive descriptions and photographs of the macromycetes is very important for taxonomic and systematic studies and for the 'Flore Illustrée de champignons d'Afrique Centrale'. Special attention is paid to ectomycorrhizal taxa.
Much attention has been paid to ethnomycological aspects. These studies aim to record, accumulate and disperse African indiginous knowledge. Indeed, macromycetes play often an important role in the diet of the local people. The results of the validation of these non-timber forest products can contribute to a better use of macromycetes and the ecosystems in which they thrive.Studies concerning relations between forest type and regeneration aim to contribute to the better knowledge of macromycete biodiversity in different types of Sudanian and/or Zambezian woodlands (forêt claires, miombo, savanna woodland).
These studies are conducted in reference plots in Benin (West Africa) and enable workers to evaluate various effects of biotic and abiotic factors on qualitative and quantitative aspects of the ectomycorrhizal mycoflora associated with different trees. Topics also include the relationships between mycosociology and phytosociology and macromycete biomass production.
Mellon Foundation project 2006: Digitisation of the water colour drawings and slides of African Fungi kept at the National Botanic Garden of Belgium (A.Bogaerts)
This project aimed to digitise the watercolour drawings of macromycetes, and slides of groups that had been studied in detail (and in most cases published). Besides the resource in the Meise herbarium there are very few resources of images of well studied specimens. The need for a good iconography is extremely high, not only for African countries but for all mycologists working on macromycetes especially in tropical regions of the world. The project participated to the repatriation of scientific data originating from Africa which are kept in an institution in the north.