Ochna mauritiana, locally known as ‘bois bouquet banané’ or ‘banana wood’, is a small tree measuring between 1.5 and 4 meters. The Ochna genus comprises 85 species with the majority being found in Africa and Madagascar. O. mauritiana is the only plant of the genus found in Mauritius. The bark on its branches is yellow-brown and bears white lenticels - raised pores in the stem of a woody plant that allows gas exchange. The species has thin, shiny, green leaves with finely toothed margins. Young leaves are reddish and develop immediately following its inflorescence. The species is distinguished by its clusters of white flowers blooming usually on bare branches.
This endemic species of Mauritius grows in intermediate forests, upland humid forests and in heather between 600 and 800 meters, but it is also found in the forests of the west and southwest coast, in the Magenta Valley, Chamarel, Ferney and Corps de Garde, among others. It shows slight differences in the branches, leaves and the shape and color of the flowers, depending on its habitat and the region. Seed dispersal by birds helps maintain its population and seedlings have been observed in the wild.
The plant is considered ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Like other native and endemic plants, the species has suffered from loss of habitat. The seeds are propagated in nurseries and used for ecological restoration and landscaping.
This species is distinguished by its clusters of white flowers that usually occur at the time of the New Year, hence its vernacular name.
La Flore des Mascareignes
A guide to the plants in Mauritius