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REUNION
Plants and Animals

Plants and Animals

Plants

Some parts of Reunion look like botanical gardens, so diverse. Between the coast and the mountains grow palms, pandanus, vanilla trees, spices, tropical fruit trees, casuarinas, rainforest and mountain flora. Furthermore, half of the cultivated land is covered with sugar cane, up to 800 metres high. The east coast is lushly vegetated and these forests have withstood the destructive influence of man. Only the real forest giants have all disappeared.

Not much grows on the barren lava fields. The first plant to grow on lava is called "branle vert" by the French; its leaves contain flammable oil! This is followed by tamarinds and acacias. Like other tropical islands, Reunion has many beautiful flowers, including orchids, hibiscus, bougainvillea, frangipani, jacaranda, grevillea, acacias and mimosa.

Réunion has 700 endemic plant species, 161 of which are endemic to the island. Several of the most endangered species can only be found in botanical gardens. The fern Marattia fraxinea is very common and can also be found on Mauritius, Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. More impressive is the tree fern Cyathea borbonica, which dominates the Bébour- Bélouve forest and can reach a height of ten metres. The bamboo species Nastus barbonicas can only be found on Réunion.

Of the many species of orchid found on the island, seven are endemic. Some palm tree species have almost disappeared in the wild, e.g. the "white" palm.

Two species of hibiscus, the orange-red Hibiscus boryanus and the yellow Hibiscus columnarus, can only be found on Réunion and Mauritius.

The shrub Ruizia cordata, with its silver leaves, is the best known endemic plant in Réunion. Two hardwood species, Foetidia mauritanium and Mimusops maxima, are widely used in construction and are therefore quite rare. Two endangered shrub species, Pouzolia laerigata and Obetia ficifolia, are pollinated by one particular species of butterfly. As the shrubs are threatened, the butterfly is also threatened with extinction.

One of the introduced plants turns out to be a success. While other plants overgrow their own flora and are otherwise useless, the vitamin C-rich goyere from Brazil is used in drinks and for jam. The eight metre high bush with its deep red fruit looks like a miniature guava.

Animals

The animals of Reunion have not fared well since the arrival of man. Dodos and giant tortoises are long gone. The crested bourbon bird is an extinct marvel; a model can still be found in the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle in St. Denis. The rarest bird at the moment is the "merle blanc" or cuckoo-claw. A related species can still be found on Mauritius.

Bulbuls are quite common. The Maskarian and Paradise Flycatcher is also known as the "oiseau la vierge". Among the birds of the plateau are the tec-tec or Réunion stonechat and the papangue or Maillardi buzzard, Réunion's only remaining bird of prey. Mynahs and the cardinal red fodder are fairly common. The best known seabird is the paille-en-queue or white-tailed tropicbird, which is also the national bird.

Albatrosses and shearwaters can occasionally be seen. Two endangered seabirds are the Réunion black petrel and Barau's petrel. Spring game birds include black grouse, quail, mountain grouse and partridge.

Other imported birds include zebra pigeon, Madagascar turtle dove, Chinese red-whiskered bulbul, spotted-backed weaver, Madagascar red fody, house sparrow and Cape canary. Rare are the Madagascar partridge, coloured Chinese quail, Madagascar button quail and red avadavat or tiger finch.

As in other Maskarian islands, the first birds, most reptiles and almost all mammals were introduced by humans. One of the first introduced mammals were wild boars which are still found in dense forest areas. Deer, brown rats and black rats were also introduced and were one of the causes of the disappearance of many endemic mammals. The tenrec is the most common mammal on Reunion, introduced from Madagascar and used as a culinary speciality.

Imported reptiles include agama lizards, various geckos and the large panther chameleon. The African toad and the Malagasy frog have also been imported. There are no endemic amphibians on Réunion. Interesting are the giant millipedes which live under rocks in humid areas. The rivers contain rainbow trout and a small species of salmon.


Sources

Ellis, R. / Mauritius, Rodrigues & RĂ©union : the Mascarene Isles
Bradt

Mauritius, RĂ©union & Seychelles
Lonely Planet

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info