Van Houtte was a Belgian horticulturist who worked a the Jardin Botanique de Brussels between 1836 and 1838 and is best known for his famous series of botanicals, Flore des Serres et des Jardins de l’Europe.
Early in his career van Houtte worked in Brussels for the Ministry of Finance and occupying his leisure time on botanical pursuits. He was on good terms with men like Parmentier, Edouard Parthon de Von (1788–1877), D’Enghien, and befriended local gardeners.
With Charles François Antoine Morren, van Houtte founded L’Horticulteur Belge (1833–1838), a monthly botanical magazine, in November 1832. Van Houtte also started a shop selling seeds and garden tools.
Devastated by the loss of his wife to whom he had been married only a short while, he set off to Brazil to collect orchids for Parthon de Von and the King of Belgium. He left for Rio de Janeiro on 5 January 1834, but due to bad weather and stopping over at Maio in the Cape Verde islands, only
arrived in May 1834. When he returned from his 1834-36 expedition to Brazil, van Houtte founded the Ecole d’Horticulture and also established in 1839, a nursery at Gentbrugge near Ghent with partner Adolf Papeleu. Van Houtte’s botanical knowledge, business acumen and facility with languages, led to his commercial success and the office of mayor of Gentbrugge.
At the height of European orchid mania in 1845 he dispatched plant collectors to the Americas to search for orchids and other exotic plants. Van Houtte produced plants for European conservatories and with the help of Eduard Ortgies cultivated the first Victoria Lily on the Continent. By the 1870’s van Houtte’s nursery was flourishing, covering 14 hectares and comprising 50 greenhouses.
The business was carried on by Van Houtte’s son, after he died in 1876.
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