- History and Culture
Psiloxylon mauritianum is a large evergreen dioecious shrub, with glabrous flowers, up to 10 meters tall, with a pale gray or white bark. The branches are relatively smooth and pinkish, and the leaves, arranged in spirals, are simple, oblong and whole, while the petioles are reddish on the young leaves. The inflorescence appears in fascicles or clusters of three to seven scented florets, which are yellowish white in colour. The fruits are trilocular berries which turn white when ripe.
The plant grows in both intermediate and upland forests but prefers the riverbank environment and protected areas. The plant produces many fruits and the seeds are scattered by birds and bats. It is rare however, to find seedlings in the wild
This Mascarene endemic species is classified as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. The plantlets are propagated in nurseries and are used in forestry restoration projects. Its population is declining due to habitat loss, the invasion of exotic species, and the destruction of the lower strata of the flora by wild pigs.
The dust of its crumbled wood causes itching hence the vernacular name.
The genus name is composed of the Greek words “psilos-glabrous, bare” and “xylon-wood” while the epithet “mauritianum” is derived from the name of the island Mauritius.
Psiloxylon mauritianum is a plant with promising medicinal qualities; It is used in traditional medicine in Mauritius and Réunion for the treatment and control of amenorrhea, dysentery and type II diabetes mellitus.
The first plant sample was collected by Louis Bouton in 1871