- History and Culture
Antidesma madagascariense is a small tree found in the Euphorbiaceae family which can reach 5 meters in height. It has a light brownish-grey bark, which is finely cracked and is a cream-pink colour inside. The species has simple alternate leaves which are pale yellow-green, and its margins may appear irregular. The tree’s florescence consists of sprays of small red flowers at the leaf base, and it bears clusters of small berries which are ovoid in shape and hold one seed. The berries changes colour from green to red and eventually to black as they ripen.
The tree is native to Mauritius, Reunion and Madagascar and is found mostly in the intermediate and upland forest. This species usually grows under forest canopy forming the secondary strata of the vegetation and it is distinguished by the domatia (small chambers made of hairs) on the leaves near the midrib.
Because of its population size, Bois bigaignon is classified ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List of Species. This species is propagated in nurseries for forest restoration projects and can be used in landscaping activities.
The tree’s sap is a purple colour and was formerly used as an ink. The tree is also used for medicinal purposes: leaves were traditionally used to treat dysentery and albumin in the urine, and combined with bark to relieve skin infections, rheumatic and body aches.
Rachel Atkinson and Jean-Claude Sevathian, A guide to the plants in Mauritius, (Mauritius: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, 2005), 80