The flora of Mauritius consists of about 685 species of plants out of which 311 species are endemic to the island, which means they are found nowhere else in the world and about 150 species are shared with other islands of the Mascarene Archipelago; Reunion and Rodrigues. A high proportion of these native species (60%) are considered threatened according to the IUCN Red List criteria. 96 species are known from less than 50 individuals and forty of these are known from less than 10 individuals in the wild. The World Conservation Union for Nature (IUCN) has quoted Mauritius as having the third most threatened island flora in the world, after Hawaii and the Canary Islands.
When Mauritius was first visited in the 17th century, it was covered by dense vegetation. Following colonization, the forests of Mauritius have been cleared for agriculture, forestry, villages and towns, and other developments. Today good quality native forests occupy less than 2.0 % of our total area. These forests are found on mountain ridges, in the South East, on the Offshore Islets and in South West in the Black River Gorges National Park. These forest remnants provide the last habitats for our endemic flora and fauna.
Our remaining native forests are under constant threat of alien invasive plants such as Chinese guava (Psidium cattleianum), privet (Ligustrum robustum) and ravenale (Ravenala madagascariensis). These exotic plants compete with the native species for space, light and nutrients. Introduced animals also contribute significantly to the degradation process either by physically damaging the plants or helping in the dispersion of the seeds of the exotic plants. Herbivorous mammals such as the rusa deer (Cervus timorensis) and the hare (Lepus nigricollis) browse young plants and tender shoots. Monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) selectively destroy flowers and fruits as well as foliage, wild pigs (Sus scrofa) cause extensive damage by eating roots of plants and disturbing the soil, and rats eat the ripe fruit. Red whiskered bulbul and wild pigs disperse the seeds of the Chinese guava.
Some beautiful plant of our national heritage:
Boucle d’oreille Endemic to Mauritius
Found only on the flanks of Le Morne Brabant, it was declared as the National Flower on 12 March 1992. The red bell-shaped flowers contain coloured nectar and are pollinated by geckos (lizard) & pic pics.
Bois d’olive Endemic to the Mascarenes
A canopy tree found throughout the native forests of Mauritius. The leaves on young plants are long and thin with a thin red mid-rib. The adult leaves are round and dark green with a toothed margin.
Bois d’ébène noir Endemic to Mauritius
A canopy tree with a black trunk often covered in white lichen. The sweet-smelling flowers have waxy petals. The green fruit are egg-shaped. Ebony from Mauritius was the most valuable wood in the world and extensively exploited during the Dutch period.
These plants and more can be seen at the Aborteum at Curepipe.