Hilsenbergia petiolaris is a small tree that can grow up to 5 meters high with a smooth grey trunk. The leaves are alternate and clustered at the top of short branches. The inflorescence is at the tip of the stems with small white flowers that produce bright red fruit at maturity which look like red berries.
The species is native to the Mascarenes. The plant is commonly found in dry lowland forest, and rarely in intermediate forests. The fruits are dispersed by birds and regenerate naturally in the wild. The seeds of this pioneer plant species germinate easily and it can colonise an area rapidly.
The species is considered of ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List. The plant is not the object of attention at the level of conservation, since the population is considerable. Seeds, however, germinate easily in the nursery and the plants are used in forest restoration projects. Risk of decline in the wild can be caused by the invasion of exotic species.
When a dry branch is broken, one can observe that the branches are hollow in the middle, just like a pipe, hence its vernacular name.
A sample was collected in Mauritius by Philibert Commerson in 1785.