- History and Culture
P. barklyi – locally known as “vacoa” is of the Pandanaceae family. The tree is endemic to Mauritius. Pandanus are dioecious trees meaning there are separate male and female trees. Their trunk is marked with leaf scars. P. barklyi has a grey, fissured trunk with ascending branches. The tree can measure between 4 to 5 meters and in contrast to other Pandanus species it has only a few stilt roots at its base. The slender dark green leaves of P. barklyi are marked by a translucent light yellow mid-rib and tiny yellow spines at their edges. They tend to droop as they mature. The species produces globular fruit that measures between 9-18 centimeters and holds a variable number of exposed, raised and conical drupes.
It grows in intermediate and higher elevations, especially along riverbanks, but is also found in swampy areas in forests and on hillsides. It can spread by dropping its branches that eventually take root. The seeds are naturally dispersed by rainwater and rivers. Pandanus is the habitat of choice for endemic geckos that like to hide from the Mauritius kestrel under its long leaves.
Classified as an ‘Endangered’ species on the IUCN Red List, its population is declining due to habitat loss caused by the invasion of exotic species and destruction by monkeys. Drupes are naturally dispersed, and germination is easy in nature. They are easily propagated in nurseries and used in forest restoration and landscaping. Some individual plants located in certain places are protected by the micro-management project in the Bel Ombre forest.
The dried leaves are used in handicrafts for making baskets, bags, tents, mats, hats and packing braids. The vernacular name of "vacoa" is derived from the word Bocoua, a hat made of Pandanus leaves in Martinique. It is said that the infusion of its roots would be an aphrodisiac whereas a paste made of crushed roots would cure venereal diseases.