Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Mauritius Inst. Bull. 1: 56 (1937).
Grand natte, nattier (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Mimusops maxima is endemic to Réunion and Mauritius.
Mimusops maxima has been heavily exploited for construction timber, and in Réunion the wood is sometimes still used for construction, joinery, furniture and wooden toys. The fruit is edible; the pulp is sweet, with an agreeable flavour. A leaf decoction is astringent and used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and haemorrhage. The latex is used as bird lime. In Réunion the tree is planted for ecological restoration of the environment and as ornamental tree.
The heartwood of Mimusops maxima is reddish brown, heavy and hard. It is closely grained and durable, even for exterior use (shingles).
Small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall, containing latex; bark roughly fissured, grey to almost whitish; ultimate branches thick, up to 1 cm in diameter, with scars of fallen leaves. Leaves arranged spirally, in tufts at the ends of branches, simple and entire, dark green; stipules absent; petiole 2–5 cm long; blade elliptical, 6.5–13(–20) cm × 3–8 cm, cuneate at base, rounded at apex, leathery, initially pubescent below but glabrescent, with many lateral veins. Flowers in fascicles of 1–3 in the leaf axils, bisexual, regular; pedicel 2–4 cm long, curved; sepals in 2 whorls of 4, reddish brown pubescent; corolla pale brownish, with a short tube and 8 lobes each with 2 appendages divided almost to the base into 3–4 narrow lobes, up to 12 mm long; stamens 8, alternating with 8 hairy staminodes; ovary superior, 8-celled. Fruit a globose to pear-shaped berry 5–7 cm in diameter, bright green, 1–7-seeded. Seeds flattened, 4–5 cm long, sometimes slightly keeled, with small circular basal scar.
Mimusops maxima plants in Réunion usually have 4–6-seeded fruits, whereas in Mauritius the fruits contain 1–2 seeds. In Réunion, recent studies showed the large variation in fruit shape and number of seeds (1–6) per fruit.
In Mauritius Mimusops maxima is sometimes difficult to distinguish from Mimusops erythroxylon A.DC. and Mimusops petiolaris (A.DC.) Dubard; the former differs in its smaller flowers, and the latter in its corolla lobe appendages divided into 5–8 lobes and more slender petioles. Both species are endemic to Mauritius.
Mimusops maxima flowers from November to January (February). Green fruits can be found on the trees year-round, but they ripen from November to December.
Mimusops maxima is characteristic of humid forest at low altitudes, in Réunion at 700–1100 m in the western part of the island, from sea-level up to 900 m in the eastern part. In more dry regions it is found along streams.
The fruits are collected from the ground from January to February and the seeds are manually extracted after partial fermentation of the pulp. The seeds can be stored for 6 months at ambient temperature in air-tight containers. The seeds are planted by pressing them for 2/3 into the soil, the pointed end downwards. Germination starts after 2 months and takes about 1 month. It is possible to accelerate germination by scarification of the seed at its rounded end. Seeds can be sown directly in pots, but transplanting has to be done within one month as the taproot soon becomes very long. Seedlings are kept in the nursery for 8–9 months before planting out into the field. In Réunion Mimusops maxima has been planted in silvicultural programmes, but the results have differed widely depending on soil conditions.
Genetic resources and breeding
Although apparently locally still rather common, the population of Mimusops maxima in Réunion has suffered from timber exploitation. Protection of the remaining stands is needed, also because the species is uncommon in Mauritius.
With the decline in natural forest area in the Mascarene Islands, the population level of Mimusops species has become too low to allow any sustainable utilization for timber. There is too little known about Mimusops maxima to judge its potential as a plantation timber tree, but probably possibilities for economical exploitation are limited by low growth rates, as is the case in other Mimusops species.
• Friedmann, F., 1981. Sapotacées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Guého, J. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 111–120. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 27 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A., Guého, J. & Bissoondoyal, M.D., 1997. Plantes médicinales de Maurice, tome 3. Editions de l’Océan Indien, Rose-Hill, Mauritius. 471 pp.
• Rivière, J.N. & Schmitt, L., 2003. Multiplication d’espèces forestières indigènes de la Réunion. Cirad-Région Réunion. CKC Imprimerie, Saint-Pierre, La Réunion. 76 pp.
• Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, undated. NATTE (nate) n. m. [Internet] Le français de la Réunion. Lexique. http://www.biblioth que.refer.org/html/reunion/lexique/natte.htm. Accessed January 2005.
• Association Flore Réunion, 2001. Encyclopédie on line de la flore de la Réunion. [Internet] http://www.flore reunion.com/frame.html. Accessed January 2005.
• Chan Ng Yok, H., 1977–2002. La flore réunionaise. [Internet] http://www.liledelareunion.com/ Fr/Flo e/v40.htm. Accessed January 2005.
• Royal Museum for Central Africa, undated. Tervuren Xylarium Wood Database: Mimusops maxima. [Internet] http://www.metafro.be/xylarium/spec es/SN8155. Accessed January 2005.
Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2005. Mimusops maxima (Poir.) R.E.Vaughan. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
wood in transverse section
wood in tangential section
wood in radial section