De Wildeman award

Émile De Wildeman (1866-1947)

portrait of Émile De Wildeman

Émile De Wildeman obtained a pharmacy degree at the “Université libre de Bruxelles” in 1887, but had in fact great interest in natural history. His later PhD in Natural Sciences (1892) from the same University, supervised by Léo Errera, was based on a dissertation on cell division.

He made a career of forty years (1891-1931) at the “Jardin botanique de l’Etat” in Brussels. He was the third director (1912-1931), and is especially well-known for his taxonomic work on the numerous botanical collections from the Free Congo State (later Belgian Congo) deposited in the Garden.

He thus catalogued for the first time the vascular plants of central Africa. Among these, thousands of species were named and described by himself: a search for “Author = De Wild.” in the International Plant Names Index yields 4,344 records. But De Wildeman also studied the flora of Belgium and the phanerogams of the Magellan area. He had skills in phycology and was interested in phytogeography, medicinal plants and economic botany.

In an extensive literature survey of the species concept, he argued that the ‘Jordanian’ definition was useful to make a first survey of the botanical diversity of the tropics. Although that made him a so-called splitter, a large number of African species described by him still remain accepted today.

The Émile De Wildeman Award

With a donation of 50.000 Belgian francs to the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium in 1951, his daughter Simone De Wildeman laid the foundation for an award in memory of her father.

The award is attributed for outstanding work in the field of African tropical botany. Initially, the prize went to work in systematics and phytogeography in one year and work in morphology, ecology or physiology in the next, but nowadays, the prize is awarded every three years. The following people received the award in recent years:

period laureate(s)
1992–1993 L. Pauwels
1994–1995 B. Sonké
1995–1996 F.X. Habiyaremye
1997–1999 P. De Block
2000–2002 B. Leteinturier
2003–2005 S. Dessein
2006–2008 S. Janssens & I . Parmentier
2009–2011 C. Cocquyt & P. Meerts
2012–2014 O. Hardy