Tervuren Arboretum: a collection of trees from all over the world, a stone’s throw from Brussels

The abundant rainfall of recent weeks has made the Tervuren Geographical Arboretum greener than green. Located on the outskirts of Brussels, it is home to countless trees and shrubs from Central and Mediterranean Europe, North America and the Middle and Far East of Asia. They are grouped by region of origin in around 100 sections covering 120 hectares. An ideal place to spend a sunny day.

An arboretum is an open-air collection of trees. The name comes from the Latin arbor, meaning tree. These collections of trees are often the result of the collecting efforts of tree lovers and connoisseurs. The Tervuren Arboretum was founded in 1902 on the estate of the Belgian King Leopold II. While his predecessor, Leopold I, had deforested most of the land for agricultural purposes, Leopold II commissioned the professor and botanist Charles Bommer to reforest the area and give shape to the arboretum.

Real forest

The Tervuren Arboretum differs from other tree collections in that it is planted like a real forest and is maintained using forestry methods. It was built at a time when many places in Belgium and Europe were undergoing an intense wave of reforestation. ​

By planting exotic American and Asian tree species, specialists wanted to see how these trees would perform in local European conditions, whether they could provide productive timber and thus complement the relatively limited range of European tree species in forestry.

The size of the Tervuren Arboretum, more than 120 hectares, its relatively strict geographical layout and the attractive landscape are also remarkable. These are all details that Bommer meticulously designed as a forester but also as a scientist. Until he died in 1938, he was closely involved with the arboretum, which soon gained an international reputation.

Forest management

Since the 1990s, a new spirit has prevailed in forest management, seeking more nature-based management and ecosystem services other than timber production: species conservation, water management, air purification, CO2 storage, recreation and public health.

A revaluation project to conserve, renew and improve public access to the arboretum also began in 2005. The collection was inventoried and documented. The estate’s tree nursery was restarted and vacant areas in the tree collection were replanted. New paths were laid through the massifs and signs were installed.

Visitors can enter the arboretum from several points. The main entrance is along the Vlaktedreef, an extension of the Jezus-Eiklaan in Tervuren. Secondary entrances are located at the end of Eikestraat in Tervuren and at Wapenplein, on Kapucienendreef in Jezus-Eik.