D. revaughanii is a rather short, shrubby tree reaching 4 meters in height. D. revaughanii is distinguished by its rectangular, large and thick leaves that are plentiful along the stem and attach directly to the tree without any leaf stalk in contrast to other ebony trees. It is heterophyllous, with very distinct foliage between juvenile plants and that of adult trees. This is believed to be due to the grazing of the now extinct giant tortoises, making younger leaves longer, thinner, oblong and with stalks. D. revaughanii has a short trunk and grey bark covered in lichens and sometimes orchids. The species has small fragrant white flowers and produces fruit that is fleshy, sticky and oval, in shape.
D. revaughanii is endemic to Mauritius and used to be common across the island. It is believed that the fruits were eaten by the now extinct giant tortoises and dodo, which aided its dispersal. The tree produces large amounts of fruit which do not often germinate easily in the wild.
D. revaughanii has been decimated throughout much of its native range for the use of its wood and to make way for agricultural expansion and development. Today it remains only in restricted areas in the South West of the island, including Bel Ombre, the Black River Gorges National Park and the summit of mountains where it is protected and propagated for ecological restoration. In the wild it continues to be threatened due to habitat loss and low seed germination rate.
Did you know?
It is also propagated as an ornamental tree in gardens and landscaping projects due to its unique features and aesthetics. The species was named after Reginald Edward Vaughan (revaughanii) who was an herbarium curator and who contributed to save our unique biodiversity.
Page, W. 1998. Diospyros revaughanii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1998: e.T30540A9561573. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.1998.RLTS.T30540A9561573.en. Downloaded on 30 May 2018.
Rachel Atkinson and Jean-Claude Sevathian, A guide to the plants in Mauritius, (Mauritius: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, 2005), 80
Guy Rouillard and Joseph Guého, Les plantes et leur histoire à l’Ile Maurice