“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”
Sir David Attenborough
I’ve been passionated about the natural world since a very young age. After the release of BBC’s six-part documentary series “Walking with Dinosaurs” in 1999, I started to become really interested in prehistoric animals. I was 7 years old by that time, started to collect fossils, went to as many exhibitions as possible and started reading scientific works about the Sauropodomorpha in particular. It was my dream to become a paleontologist.
As a kid, my parents took me several times a year to the Ardennes, the only region in Belgium with dense forests and great panoramic views. The forest fascinated me and we attended multiple educational weekends in which we were guided by Maurice, a mycologist. He was specialised in the Russulales. His knowledge and passion worked infectious. We collected mushrooms, examined their morphological features and differences, their habitat and ecology, searched in literature and finally scientifically named them. This was my first encounter with taxonomy.
It were the documentaries and presentations of the famous naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough who guided me through childhood. I liked to watch natural history documentaries and wanted to learn more about the fascinating natural world. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that was able to bring me around the world. My parents learned me to appreciate different countries, cultures and languages. We went on trips every year and I realised that our world is a diverse, valuable and truly beautiful place. Unfortunately I soon became aware of the harm that our species is doing to this planet and this on a greater scale that I ever could imagine as a child.
By the age of 11, my mother and I walked into the local garden centre. This was the place where I saw my first carnivorous plant in real life: a Venus flytrap. I was fascinated by the fact that this plant was able to capture insects in specialized, attractive traps. I decided to buy one and before I realised I had a small collection of flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) and some North American pitcher plants (Sarracenia). Soon, I started to read more specialised literature about the tropical genera within carnivorous plants. It were the march pitcher plants (Heliamphora) that intrigued me the most. Not only because of their morphology, but also because of the natural habitat in which they occur: the Guiana Highlands. I built a dedicated terrarium for them and bought my first Heliamphora and Nepenthes. From that time, my collection only expanded and my interest for carnivorous plants was unstoppable.
At the age of 17 I wanted to explore the world by myself and was so interested in the tepuis of Venezuela that I asked my parents to join an expedition to trek up Mount Roraima. My parents didn’t allow me to go because of my young age. Only two years later, I decided to visit Iceland in Winter. It would be a great destination for a young solo traveler and the ideal way to see the famous aurora borealis, which was simply breathtaking.
After my great experiences in Iceland, I decided to travel to Sulawesi. The main goal was to visit stands of my favourite plants. This first tropical experience was simply unforgettable. The pureness and beauty of the jungle was astonishing. I will never forget my first moments into the montane rainforests in a remote part of Sulawesi. I never saw something so spectacular and of such great beauty. On this trip I saw my first tropical carnivorous plant in situ: Nepenthes maxima. After seeing 8 species of Nepenthes, I was determined to see more species of pitcher plants and explore more.
My trip to Sulawesi was a life-changing adventure and resulted in many more expeditions. These trips brought me to the most pristine and beautiful regions in the world. I was able to explore areas which were never explored before, stood on summits that were never visited by humans and found plant species new to science. Along the way I met people who live in harmony and peace with nature and met interesting people who share the same passion for the natural world with me. Some of them became really good friends.
My strong passion for the natural world and plants resulted in degrees in agro- and biotechnology, nature conservation and botany. I was able to work at Kew botanical gardens in London and research centers during my studies. During the years my collection of carnivorous plants, orchids, ant plants and aroids has grown to a total of 4 greenhouses and I now got the biggest collection of Nepenthes and Heliamphora in the Benelux. Since 2017 I’m the official EU distributor for the Australian nursery Exotica Plants and in 2018 I became the president of Drosera VZW, the Belgian carnivorous plant society.
Growing plants, travelling to their habitats, work and my lovely family consume most of my time. Nevertheless I try to find time for my other interests, which are astrophysics and my old love for paleontology.
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