Cossinia pinnata commonly known as; bois de Judas, Judas wood or peephole wood is a shrub between 5 to 8 meters tall, or a tree of 12 to 15 meters in height. It has a pale coloured bark and its branches start near the base of the trunk. The young stems are covered with a yellowish pubescence and the leaves are generally composed of 5 green leaflets, that are hairless (glabrous) on their upper surface and are covered with a fine down on their underside. The inflorescences develop in axillary and terminal positions. The white flowers are either male or female and are present on the same inflorescence. The fruit are three-lobed capsules with an opening at the top, each containing a globose black seed.
The Judas Wood is endemic to the Mascarenes. It is a common plant at different altitudes. It can be part of the canopy or undergrowth of native vegetation. The flowers are pollinated by flies, bees and geckos. The fruit are naturally dispersed. A pioneering, fast-growing species, it can quickly colonize a space. Seedlings and young shrubs can be seen in the wild.
Classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, this species is protected under the forest restoration project, widely propagated by seeds and seedlings in nurseries and then replanted in nature or in landscaping projects. The population is declining due to habitat loss and the invasion of exotic species.
The wood of C. pinnata is of good quality, red and very dense, it can be confused with that of makak (Mimusops maxima) when freshly cut. which gave the idea to unscrupulous loggers to export the wood as makak. But aging differently, the traders realized the trickery and said that to deceive a customer with fake wood makak was treason. Hence its vernacular name of ‘bois de Judas’.
The first sample of the plant was collected in 1767 by Philibert Commerson, French naturalist.