Laeken’s Royal Glasshouses

Crown on top of Laeken’s main Royal Glasshouse. © Karen Netto (Andrews)

For 2-3 weeks between April and May (in most normal years), the Royal Glasshouses of Laeken in northern Brussels are open to the public. I was luck to visit them in early May 2013 during a visit to the Belgian capital. Although the visit was largely confined to the glasshouses, the parkland surrounding the Royal Palace reminded me of Kew Gardens at times with its Japanese pagoda, lake and spring blossom.

The sights inside the Royal Glasshouses reminded me of Kew Gardens’ Palm House.

© Karen Netto (Andrews)

I recently heard that it is not done for scientists write about beauty, even if beauty was what first attracted them to their field. As an Arts graduate as well as Science graduate, I reserve the right to continue to write about beauty even as I dissect a flower. It is not possible in these troubled times to merely admire beauty without an awareness of history, social justice and politics. In 2013, I was unaware to the connection of the Royal Glasshouses to Leopold II of Belgium and atrocities committed in the Congo under slavery. I am aware that today King Philippe of the Belgians expressed his deepest regrets for the past. Black lives matter.

Finally, returning to botany, one tropical flower that stands out in the Pier Greenhouse is the Medinilla from the Phiippines resting on a pedestal in an ancient Chinese vase (see below).

NB: I have preferred to refer to the Royal Glasshouses as opposed to Greenhouses, as the later term does not convey their scale well.

© Karen Netto (Andrews)

Further Reading

BBC News (2020): Belgian king expresses ‘deepest regrets’ for DR Congo colonial abuses. 30 June 2020. Last accessed 1 July 2020.

How to get from Brussels to Royal Greenhouses of Laeken – 4 ways to travel (I visited the nearby Chinese Garden and Atomium in Laeken afterwards).

The Belgian Monarchy (?): Royal Greenhouses in Laeken. Last accessed 1 July 2020.

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