- History and Culture
Gymnosporia pyria, formerly known as Maytenus pyria, and mostly known as "powder wood", is a bushy shrub that is less than 2 meters tall. Its reddish leaves are located at the whorls along the branches and are distinguished by their serrated edge. The shrub produces small white flowers in bunches, with petals that are finely indented and a bright orange fruit capsule. The fruit holds yellowish and orange oval seeds which are 2.5 to 3.5 centimetres long.
This endemic shrub grows from dry forest to humid forest, but the main population is found in dry forest. This species is classified vulnerable on the IUCN Red Data listing and noticed that the population size has decreased during past years due to invasive exotic plants. its shoot form gives endemic birds the chance to build their nest. The seeds are dispersed by birds which allow the plants to regenerate naturally in different places in the wild.
The shrub is considered a ‘Vulnerable’ species on the IUCN Red List. This species is well conserved in the wild and its population is considerable, however the invasive spread of exotic species may cause its decline. Largely propagated in nurseries for the rehabilitation of the forest, it is also used in landscaping.
The vernacular name of this species is related to the explosive way, like a spray, that the plant diffuses its pollen.
This species is used to treat dysentery, while the bark has been used to treat kidney stones. Its anti-inflammatory properties are also recognized.
Atkinson, Rachel and Jean-Claude Sevathian, A guide to the plants in Mauritius, (Mauritius: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, 2005), 46