- History and Culture
Labourdonnaisia glauca commonly known as Bois de natte or matting wood, can grow up to 20 meters in height. The gray trunk can reach 1 meter in diameter with vertical cracks, and horizontal branching. Of the different types of Labourdonnaisia existing in Mauritius, it is characterized by larger leaves whose underside is metallic-grey. They are arranged in whorls and contain a milky latex. The leaves also have a prominent midrib. The inflorescence has white or clustered bell-shaped flowers at the base of the leaves with long thick pedicels. The olive-shaped fruits contain latex.
Endemic to Mauritius, L. glauca is part of the canopy especially in intermediate and upland forests. The species is sought by endemic birds that use their dense foliage or trunk cavities for nesting. Bats disperse the seeds, it is the only endemic vertebrate known to feed on this species.
L. glauca is classified as a ‘Vulnerable’ species on the IUCN Red List. It is commonly found in our forests. Introduced animal species such as monkeys break the young branches to feed on the sap and eat the young fruit which reduces the plant's growth in a natural environment. This species is uses in restoration projects and in landscape activity.
The plants have lateral and adventive branches which look like a braided mat (natte), hence its common name; bois de natte or matte wood.
The wood of this species was used in construction of houses, furniture making and ships.
"Labourdonaisia" owes its scientific name to Mahé de la Bourdonnais, French governor from 1735 to 1746, while the name of the species "glauca" is due to the brown color of the leaves. (Glauca generally refers to a bluish tint, pertaining to the color of the top of the leaves)
Rachel Atkinson and Jean-Claude Sevathian, A guide to the plants in Mauritius, (Mauritius: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, 2005)