Tree species in Mauritius
Trees are woody plants being the most diverse group of land plants. They are found all over the world with the highest diversity in the tropics. There are three broad categories of trees in Mauritius: endemic, indigenous and invasive species. Mauritius along with Rodrigues and Reunion form part of the Mascarene Islands and within the Mascarene Mauritius is considered to be one of the hotspots of endangered tree species. Research has shown that there are about 677 species of flowering plants in Mauritius with 277 being endemic to the island (found only in Mauritius) and 147 to the Mascarene. Among the existing plants in Mauritius, about 35% are classified as Critically Threatened or Endangered as per the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list.
Mauritius counts 7 strict endemic species. Many of the native trees in Mauritius are unique and some even occur as sole individuals such as the Hurricane Palm on Round Island. Among the natives are the Ebony, the Tambalacoque, Tamaka, Bois Dentelle and a number of palms. Many of these species survive on the islets off Mauritius since their numbers have been greatly reduced by human activities and invasive plants; as such many of the islets are classified as nature reserves for protection purposes. Because of their important ecological significance, 4 of the endemics have been used as stamp logos; they are Bois Puant, Bois d’Ebene, Bois d’Eponge and Manglier des hauts.
There are more than 50 families of indigenous plants which are further sub divided into more species. Some of them are Bois Boeuf, Bois Jaune, Bois Blanc, Bois Margoze, Bois d’Olive des Seychelles, Bois Cassant, L’immortelle du Pouce, Baume d’ile Plate, Bois d’Ebene, Bois Cabris, Bois a Balais, Bois Piment, Bois Bleu, Bois Violon, Bois Callant etc.
One of the major threats to the native forests of Mauritius is the invasive species that are suffocating the native trees via competition for food, water and space. The worst kinds of invasive species are the alien ones because while the indigenous ones are known on the island and thus can be controlled, the means of survival and propagation of the aliens are unknown and are so more difficult to cope with. One of the most potent invasive plants is the Chinese guava which has a high rate of propagation and is very difficult to control. Other invasive plants in Mauritius are Privet, Liane Cerf, Petit Acacia, False Acacia, Bois d’oiseaux, Piquant Loulou, Jamrosa, Herbe Tourterelle, Pine, Framboise Marron and Vielle Fille.
Compared to pristine Mauritius, a lot of tree species have gone extinct mainly due to human intervention and alien species propagation. However, because exact records are unavailable, it is difficult to conclude just how many. With new technological means of discovery many plants thought to be extinct once are being rediscovered such as the Trochetia parviflora which has been seen after 138 years (Trochetia is also the national flower of Mauritius). Mauritius is a dreamland for botanists and eco tourism helps in dissipating the knowledge about many wonderful plants occurring on the island only.