Polyscias dichrootachya is a small tree that can grow up to 6 meters tall and has a smooth whitish-grey trunk. Its leaves are bright green and grouped at the top of the branches. The inflorescence of this tree is paniculate, reaching 50cm long. It has sessile flowers with yellow-cream petals and berries that are spherical and corded.
This endemic species of Mauritius is found mainly in intermediate forest, where it grows in dense native vegetation. The plant prefers a moist environment and exposed places. The flowers are pollinated by the diurnal endemic gecko, flies and birds. Seedlings are rarely found in the wild and adult plants are very localized and isolated.
The species is classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. The seeds are propagated in nurseries and can be used for forest restoration and landscaping. The population is decreasing due to habitat loss and the invasion of exotic species.
The trunk and dry branches look like a sponge, hence its vernacular name.
Monkeys break the young branches to feed on the sweet sap.
Recently studied for saponins, toxic to molluscs and used in the control of gastropods and the transmission of schistosomiasis disease.