Managing and future-proofing plant collections

September 30, 2023

In my secondment at Meise Botanic Garden, I am working with the team of Living Collections and Domain, focusing on the management of live plants inside greenhouses. My focal project during this internship is to assist in assessing and curating an extensive collection of cacti donated to the Garden earlier this year. These plants were originally collected by Ludwig Bercht, the famous Dutch expert cacti expert, who participated in over 26 expeditions and visited over 6400 wild localities in search of these plants. In the context of climate change, with nearly 30% of all cacti species under the threat of extinction, the work carried out by botanic gardens to maintain such large collections is exceedingly valuable. As an early career researcher, it is a privilege and an exciting opportunity for me to participate in this project.

Cacti from the Ludwig Bercht collection donated to Meise Botanic Garden. In her secondment project, Luiza is assisting in the assessment and curation of these plants. The goal is to continue to help preserve endangered cacti by providing researchers worldwide the opportunity to investigate these fascinating plants. Part of the collection will also be incorporated into the Plant Palace and other greenhouses where the public can see, admire, and learn about them throughout the year.

Photo credits: Luiza Teixeira-Costa

In addition to learning more about these fascinating plants and how to best manage them in a botanic garden collection, I have been assisting in the work carried out by gardeners and technicians in the day-to-day care of plants. From a collections management perspective, it is fundamental to have a basic knowledge of all the different tasks and requirements involved in the care and maintenance of the collection. While I have experience in working with museum collections, there are important peculiarities and differences in the management of live plants in a botanic garden and forest domain. By getting to experience different competences involved in the management of live collections, I hope to become more diversified in my profession. In this sense, this secondment at Meise Botanic Garden will surely open new career pathways for me beyond academia.

The greenhouse at Meise Botanic Garden known as “Plant Palace”.
Photo credits: Luiza Teixeira-Costa

Dr. Luiza Teixeira-Costa is a postdoctoral fellow at the Biology Department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA-Impact Co-fund) fellowship. She in interested in the multiple impacts of global change in the ecology of plants, with a particular focus on species that are endangered and/or act as key ecosystem components. In her work, Luiza combines a passion for museums and natural history collections with her curiosity about how plants function and interact with other species.