- History and Culture
Sideroxylon grandiflorum is an evergreen canopy tree that can grow up to 15 meters tall, the bark is dissociated into thin, regular patches. The tree has many branches that often appear gnarled and covered with a fine rusty-gray duvet. The young leaves are downy and tan-brown on the lower surface and hairless on the upper surface. Leaves are arranged in spirals and are elliptical and obovate in shape with rounded bases, complete margins and rounded apex. The hermaphrodite flowers are yellowish, and grow in clusters, on the stems. It produces ovoid berries, 5 cm long, with a fleshy pericarp, and are reddish-green at maturity. The berries contain a large bizarre globular seed with a thick and extremely hard testa; transverse embryo, with prominent cotyledons.
This endemic species of Mauritius grows mainly in upland forests and high mountain vegetation but is also found in the middle forest of the native canopy. There are isolated trees in some gardens in Curepipe. The flowers are pollinated by birds, flies, bats and geckos and fruit are dispersed by bats. This species germinates naturally in the National Park and in private gardens where seedlings and young trees have been observed.
The species is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. It is protected under the restoration project in the Nature Reserves. Seeds and seedlings are propagated in nurseries and reintroduced as part of forest restoration and landscaping projects. The population is declining due to habitat loss and the invasion of exotic species. The destruction of the stems bearing flowers and fruits by the monkeys accentuates the problem of regeneration of the species.
The name of the species grandiflorum comes from the large (grandi) flowers (florum) which are attached to the branches.
The wood has been extensively used in the past as beams for buildings, in the construction of boats, bridges, mills, as firewood and for the manufacture of coal. This use has undoubtedly been an important factor in its depletion. Its exploitation is now forbidden
The vernacular name "Dodo Tree" comes from the fact that it was thought that it was necessary for the seeds to be pre-digested by the Dodo in order to germinate. Unsuccessful trials with turkeys have shown this belief to be inaccurate.
The first sample of the plant was collected in 1839 by Wenceslas Bojer.