Classical herbarium studies are the main research area at the Garden: plant systematics and related fields such as floristics, phytogeography, phylogeny, comparative morphology, pollen & spores and vegetation studies are all at the issue. They concentrate on temperate Europe, especially Belgium, and the paleotropics, especially Central Africa. All plant groups are studied: algae, bryophytes, fungi including lichens and vascular plants.
With its systematic investigation, the Garden contributes to the drawing up of the global inventory of biodiversity. But also related disciplines such as floristics and plant geography get a chance.
In the temperate regions, the systematic knowledge of plants is already quite well-known, nevertheless important work remains to be done. Maintaining the floristic inventory up to date and to follow the spread of species is a priority for nature conservation. Also alien plant species are studied to see if they would become an invasive threat to our indigenous flora.
In contrast to that of temperate regions, the tropics have a less well-known flora. The Garden already works for some hundred years on the flora of Central Africa. On a regular base, new species are circumscribed and receive a name.
Actually freshwater and brackish water algae are being studied. An international reputation was built on with the study of algae from arid and semi-arid regions in Africa and the Middle East.
The Belgian hepatics and mosses have been studied extensively. Much work was done on Bryum and Pohlia, especially the propaguliferous species. This stimulated interest in propaguliferous species by other Belgian bryologists. For conservation and monitoring purposes bryophyte diversity in and outside the nature reserves is compared and conservation tools such as Red Lists are developed. Problems with invasive species are also studied.
Systematics, ecology and floristics of different groups of fungi in Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg but also in Congo and Benin are being studied.
Molecular and morphological systematics of different groups of lichens e.g. Arthoniales are studied. Floristic studies are also undertaken in Africa, Antarctica, Europe (mainly Belgium and northern France) and Macaronesia.
(ferns and seed plants)
Scientists of the Garden have named, described and classified thousands of plant species from central Africa since the 19th century, and we continue that effort. Apart from that, monographic attention is given to special interest families, at present Acanthaceae and Rubiaceae.
Research on temperate representatives concentrates on special interest groups (e.g. orchids, water plants, invasive species, ...). Much attention is given to keeping the floristic inventory of Belgium up to date.
There is a scanning electron microscope (with low vacuum equipment; JEOL 5800LV)at the disposal of the research at the Garden.
In the molecular lab, scientists and technicians daily perform DNA amplification by PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and DNA electrophoresis.
Certain types of craftsmanship are also maintained. Especially the tradition of botanical illustration is still very much kept alive in the Garden. Collaborating with our researchers, our artists, O. Van de Kerckhove and A. Fernandez, produce accurate, world class illustrations whose beauty transcends the borders of time, science and culture.
Besides the drawings and paintings, there is a rich collection of approximately 20,000 slides. The largest part concerns fungi, mostly those of tropical Africa, plants grown in our own collections and plants and vegetation types of the tropics.