Features and characters of the individual
This tree was chosen by the Jean Massart Botanical Garden:
*"The Caspian locust of the Massart Garden is remarkable for its size. It is also the tree that the visitor, crossing the Garden through the main driveway, will not fail to notice, in all seasons. It is gradually discovered behind the greenhouses on the left. Its crown, particularly majestic, extends over an area of more than 3 ares. It seems as wide as it is high. Its branches overlook the driveway, which they shade pleasantly in summer. Its leaves are so striking that their structure can vary on the same branch. Its flowers do not have particularly remarkable colours for the walker, but they are very honey-like and are abundantly visited by bees. In winter, defoliated, the tree strikes by the very impressive size of the thorns of its trunk, long and sharp. This is a remarkable tree from the Garden. It's been growing for 70 years."
THE TREE ENVIRONMENT
*"The Massart Garden is rich in trees and shrubs. These are on the one hand fragments of natural wooded vegetation, particularly in its wet area (alders, ash trees, etc.).
*On the other hand, a small collection of exotic trees and shrubs has been established. Its vocation is essentially pedagogical. The accent is preferably placed on species that are uncommon in gardens and parks. Over time, this arboretum has developed ecological conditions that are unique to it, and its forest atmosphere, along the Rouge-Cloître ponds, seduces the walker in all seasons.
*The Garden also has a small collection of fruit tree varieties, especially apple trees.
The collection of this Arboretum makes it possible to organize educational and didactic activities, adapted to a wide variety of audiences.
A brochure published by the educational team of the Massart Garden "Trees and Shrubs of the Jean Massart Botanical Garden" offers a pleasant walk through the garden's tree-lined collections. This brochure is available from the university presses of the ULB or from the pedagogical team of the Garden (firstname.lastname@example.org). Guided tours on the same theme are offered throughout the year.
Are you a constituted group? (min 10 pers. max 25) Would you like to organize a visit to the trees and shrubs of the Garden? All the information: email@example.com
The Garden and Wood Wide Web are making connections. Three students from BIOL 3 at ULB are conducting research on a series of remarkable trees in the Garden, including this individual. Their outreach work will be published in portrait form in the second half of 2019. An online walk will soon connect these trees on our atlas. She will be guided in the field!
This overview was written by Anton Laurent, a 3rd year Bachelor in Biologythe Université Libre de Bruxelles, under guidance from Pierre Meert and Priscille Cazin, as part of a partnership between Wood wide Web and Jardin Massart.
Highlight of the Jean Massart Botanical Garden
If you walk around the Jean Massart botanical garden, you can’t miss the Caspian locust occupying a central position on the landscape. The tree is an important symbol amongst the garden’s plants. This locust tree is an uncommon species for the Brussels area. This tree is the only one of its kind inscribed in the Brussels region’s Inventory of Natural Heritage. In fact, its size and particular structure make it something of a living monument. It was probably planted just after the garden was created.
Isolated in the heart of the garden, this tree has not needed to grow very tall in its quest for light; it has been able to flourish through its width instead. Its main branches open out in a fan shape, so much so that its crown* stretches blithely over the main.
Note the large spines covering this locust’s trunk and branches: they protect the tree from big herbivores. These thorns are among the largest in the plant world!
Centre of the Springtime Display
When spring is drawing to an end, the Caspian locust is in full bloom. Its flowers are grouped in long white clusters and they are highly melliferous and odoriferous. They attract a multitude of from several miles around them.
If you come to visit this locust tree during this period, then keep your eyes and your nose on high alert: you’ll smell the sweet scent of its nectar and you’ll be in the centre of a ballet of buzzing insects.
A Tree That Stands Firm
Twenty million years ago, a large variety of locust tree species formed. They spread throughout the Eurasian continent. 14 different locust species were able to adapt to major changes to the planet’s climate and settled down around the world across different regions. The Caspian locust is one of these species that has endured through the ages. It lives in Transcaucasia (also known as the South Caucasus, which is its namesake in French: ‘févier de la Caspienne’) in the Caspian Hyracanian Mixed Forests ecoregion. These forests shelter many species of trees that once existed in Europe, but which have been pushed out of it by the glaciations. Locust trees may be very spiky, but they are not armed to protect themselves against the destruction of their environment.
In contrast, our locust tree in Brussels appears to have a better future: being pampered by gardeners and studied by scientists. Far away from its native forest, it has grown in a protected environment. While the tree prefers rather warm places, it has managed to acclimatise to the Jean Massart botanical garden. However, even though a huge amount of bees visit the tree, it has never borne fruit. It is possible that the plant may have to be pollinated by the pollen of another individual, who is genetically different. But the nearest Caspian locust tree can be found just outside of Brussels to the north, in the Botanic Garden Meise. They are far too far away for a pollinator to bring pollen to the Massart Garden.
Research Brings Hope
Researchers are conducting research on this species, as well as many others, in the search for compounds that could be useful in medicine. Caspicaosides are compounds that were derived from these trees. They are being studied at the moment because they seem to be able to fight certain types of cancerous tumours in humans. However, in addition to this, it’s especially valuable as part of the world’s plant heritage.
*Transcaucasia: region bordering the Caspian Sea, stretching from the south of Azerbaijan to northern Iran.