Name and extension. – The name of Belgium attributed to a certain territorial extension is found for the first time in Tacitus in the Belgic form, deriving from the name of the Belgians, a Celtic branch inhabiting this district before the Roman conquest. At that time, however, the territorial name did not correspond, nor does it correspond today (while it is used to designate a political unit), to one of the natural divisions that can be recognized in the geographical design of Europe. The western and northern portion of the Belgian state is in fact only part of the great lowland, which for such an extension extends from the North Sea to the East. towards the heart of central Europe; the remaining portion is land of mediocre elevations, which due to their geological formation and the position and orographic forms cannot be considered separately from the complex of elevations that occupies the northern part of France and continues throughout the middle of Germany.
According to act-test-centers, the Belgian state extends in an approximately elliptical shape limited to the West by the North Sea, to the North by the Netherlands, to the East by the German Republic and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to the South by the French Republic. Extreme points: long. 2 ° 32 ’38’ ‘and 6 ° 24′ 28 ” E., lat. 49 ° 29 ’52’ ‘and 51 ° 30’ 20 ” N. The length of the political border is km. 1444, of which only 66 are from the sea: 449 border with Holland, 161 with Germany, 148 with Luxembourg, 620 with France; the border at S. is nearly as it was reached by France under Louis XIV, at N. which they obtained approximately, coming out victorious in the century. XVI from the war of independence, the United Provinces (which later became the kingdom of the Netherlands), to E. which was established by the treaties of 1839 that created the independence of Belgium, with the modifications brought about by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Within these limits, which can only minimally be called natural limits (the border line with France in the Flemish plan even randomly cuts entire series of settlements that extend uninterrupted on both sides), the surface of the Belgian kingdom is square kilometers. 30,444, just a thousand square kilometers. more than our Piedmont (pre-war area sq. km. 29,452, having then added the two districts of Eupen and Malmédy, formerly belonging to Germany).
Flora. – Very few tracts remain to the spontaneous vegetation in Belgium which is a country so densely populated, and in which the plastic of the land, flat and uniform, except in the Ardennes, has been very favorable to the agrarian development, made possible by the hydraulic arrangement of the rivers that run through it. No longer, therefore, the dense forests and vast swamps of the times in which Caesar led his legions there, but those that were demolished or replaced by woods that have nothing natural, and these dried up and transformed into fertile fields and extensive prairies. Add the emergence of the coastal districts, geologically recent, and the destruction of the ancient Ardennes flora during the glacial period: all this, together with the influence exerted by man, explains the poverty and uniformity of spontaneous vegetation in Belgium, which is linked to that of the south-west of France and continues in the Baltic area. Only one species is endemic, the Bromus arduennensis Dum., Since others described by the botanists of the country, as special to it, are but forms of adaptation, not hereditary, of ubiquitous types.
However, the flora of the coastal districts is undoubtedly quite rich and varied; it found a brilliant and original investigator in Giovanni Massart. It includes the psammophytes of the beach, living in the mobile dunes plumed by Ammophila arenariaand in the fixed dunes, in which, as in the pannes, depressions interceding between the sand mounds, there are large expanses of two shrubs – the Salix repens and the Hippophaë rhamnoides -; the plants of the wet and salty soils, the slikkes and the schorres, under the dependence of the tide at the mouth of the rivers (Atropis maritima, Glaux maritima, Plantago maritima, Artemisia maritima, Asier tripolium), the lake and marsh plants settled along the river floods, in the ponds and marshes of the clayey polders, which are those portions of the marine and river floods defended against the tides by artificial dams. Plants which are the same and give rise to identical associations of the sandy coasts and lagoon systems of the rest of Europe. In the rest of the country, beyond the limited wooded areas and the meadows, now dry, now humid, now acid, the largest consortium from the edge of the dunes inland is the moor or moor at Calluna vulgaris ; where the soil becomes humid, numerous sphagnum trees and another social Ericacea, the Erica tetralix, replace it ; where it starts to become a swamp, the sphagnum trees take over and the Myrica gale is associated with it. The marsh stations and the spagneti have entertained numerous northern or montanine species that the glaciations have pushed up to the coastal districts (Parnassia, Drosera, Vaccinium, Andromeda, Narthecium, etc.), but naturally the boreal character is accentuated, despite the low elevation, in the Ardennes: in them grow Lycopodium alpinum, Corallorrhyza innata, Vaccinium uliginosum, Trientalis europaea, Empetrum nigrum, Arnica montana, et: c. Here too, and in what was called a limestone district, but which has a varied lithological constitution, rupicolous species nestle now of calcareous soils, now of siliceous soils, and thermophilic species which represent an irradiation from French districts. Further information can be found in the two powerful works, to which we refer, which G. Massart dedicated to the illustration of the Belgian flora and the ecology of his associations, namely: Essai de géogr. bot. des districts littoraux et alluviaux de la Belgique, in Rec. Inst. bot. L. Errera, VII (1908); Esquisse de la géogr. bot. de la Belgique, ibid., suppl. VII bis, 1910.
For more widely cultivated food plants, see. more down. The forest species used for reforestation are beech, Scotch pine, spruce, larch, English oak and oak, chestnut, hazelnut, etc. A. Well.