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Mascarenhasia arborescens has beautiful, delicate flowers with an exquisite scent. Its attractive habit and dark red petioles and midribs add to its horticultural merit.

Mascarenhasia arborescens


Kew Species Profiles

General Description
An attractive ornamental, Mascarenhasia arborescens was an important source of natural rubber in Madagascar in the early 1900s.

Mascarenhasia arborescens has beautiful, delicate flowers with an exquisite scent. Its attractive habit and dark red petioles and midribs add to its horticultural merit.

The generic name is taken from the French 'Mascareignes' referring to a group of islands in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar. The specific epithet arborescens refers to its tree-like habit. The genus Mascarenhasia contains eight species of shrubs and small trees, all of which can be found in Madagascar.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Native to East Africa, Madagascar, the Comoros and the Seychelles.


Overview: A shrub or small tree commonly up to 15 m tall (rarely up to 35 m), with smooth brownish bark. The branchlets are rough and grey with lenticels (openings in the bark allowing gas exchange), and contain a milky latex.

Leaves: The leaves are simple (not divided into leaflets) and are held opposite each other on the stem. The leaves are glossy light green, leathery, 5-16.5 x 2-6 cm, and have a midrib which is indented above but prominent below.

Flowers: The flowers are white with a yellow tube, and up to 10 mm in diameter. They are bisexual and are borne in small axillary or terminal clusters, termed cymes. The flowers have five calyx lobes with a ring of tiny scales at the base. The corolla tube is cylindrical and bears short hairs on the outside, at least above, and is densely hairy in the throat. The five petals are densely hairy, and overlapping. Five stamens are attached in the swollen upper portion of the tube, and just protrude from it.

Fruits: The fruit resembles a miniature propeller, has two opposing ovaries, and is 5-17.5 cm long with a rough grey surface. The fruits split to produce many seeds, each with a tuft of golden hairs. 


Mascarenhasia arborescens was cultivated for the production of rubber in Madagascar in the early 1900s, when it was one of the country's major sources of natural rubber. Interest in this species was revived briefly during World War II, as a source of rubber for the production of car tyres. It is not widely cultivated elsewhere.

The latex from M . arborescens is mixed with that of Chrysophyllum boivinianum to make a sticky trap to catch the Madagascar red fody ( Foudia madagascariensis ), a small bird which is a pest of maturing rice crops.

M. arborescens is used in traditional medicine in Madagascar to treat intestinal disorders, spasms and diarrhoea. A recent scientific study supports the antispasmodic and antioxidant efficacy of this species.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Description of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 4.66 g

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two


Mascarenhasia arborescens can be propagated from seed or by taking cuttings, and can form an attractive shrub with some formative pruning. Research is currently being carried out at Kew into the best way of taking and growing-on cuttings.

Where to see this species at Kew

Mascarenhasia arborescens is grown in the Palm House and behind-the-scenes in the Tropical Nursery at Kew.

Dried and spirit-preserved specimens of M. arborescens are held in the behind-the-scenes Herbarium at Kew, where they are made available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details, including images, of some of these specimens can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Specimens of the wood and roots of M. arborescens are held in the Economic Botany Collection, where they are made available to bona fide researchers by appointment.

Evergreen forest and on riverine fringes; in moist areas, particularly along stream banks.
Not yet rated according to IUCN Red List criteria, but given its broad geographic distribution it is unlikely to be threatened globally.

None known.


Apocynaceae, A. J. M. Leeuwenberg and F. K. Kupicha et al.. Flora Zambesiaca 7:2. 1985

Morphology General Habit
Shrub or small tree 1·5–8(12) m. high; young shoots glabrous or brown appressed-pubescent and soon glabrescent; bark of twigs grey, rough with lenticels.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves glabrous or petiole and proximal part of lower lamina surface brown appressed-pubescent and soon glabrescent; petiole 4–8 mm. long; leaves drying discolorous, with upper surface blackish green or dark brown and lower surface paler, grey or brown.
Morphology Leaves Leaf lamina
Leaf lamina 5–16·5 x 1·7–6 cm., obovate-oblong, oblong or elliptic, the apex cuspidate or acuminate to a round-tipped acumen, the base tapered; main lateral veins 7–13-paired, looping into a continuous marginal vein, level and inconspicuous on upper surface, slightly raised and quite conspicuous on lower surface; tertiary reticulum not scalariform; midrib impressed above, prominent below.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflores­cences few- or several-flowered cymes or fascicles, these terminal but often appearing lateral by the overtopping growth of axillary shoots; pedicels 2–7 mm. long, glabrous or pubescent; flowers white with yellow tube, the corolla leathery in texture.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx 2·5–4 mm. long, lobes ovate-acute, thinly appressed-pilose on both surfaces, ciliate; a ring of numerous tiny scales present, adnate to the base of the calyx on its adaxial side.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla lobes ovate-acute to ovate-caudate, 5–10 mm. long, densely hairy on both surfaces and on the margin, the indumentum consisting of turgid cells longest towards the mouth of the corolla tube; corolla tube 8–12 mm. long, of 2 ± equal parts separated by a constriction and with a very small apical opening; outer surface glabrous or pubescent especially in the upper half, inner surface variably pilose in the upper half, especially behind the anthers, ± glabrous below the constriction.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens sessile, fixed by their lower abaxial surface to the corolla tube just above the median constriction; anthers sagittate, c. 3·5 mm. long; pollen sacs confined to the upper half of the anther, the lower half consisting of two stiff sterile tails flanking a median brush-like retinacle which is firmly adnate to the clavuncle of the gynoecium.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Disc
Disc bearing 4–5 stout oblong scales c. 1·6 mm. high.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary of two completely separate compressed-ovoid carpels c. 1 mm. high, pubescent at the apex.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Style densely pilose, widened at apex at level of corolla tube constriction into the clavuncle, then narrowed again into the cylindrical, glabrous, apparently undivided stigma.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit of two straight divaricate follicles 5–17·5 cm. long, with rough grey surface.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds ¥, 11–15 mm. long, linear, compressed, with apical coma of golden-brown hairs 16–27 mm. long.


Apocynaceae, H. Huber. Flora of West Tropical Africa 2. 1963

Morphology General Habit
A large shrub or small tree
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Creamy-white flowers in axillary and terminal, several to many-flowered fascicles.


Apocynaceae, E.A. Omino. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2002

Morphology General Habit
Tree or shrub 1.5–15(–20) m high, with white latex in all parts; trunk 3–40 cm in diameter; bark smooth or rough, often peeling off in large scales; branchlets glabrous.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves petiolate; blade elliptic or obovate, 4–18 cm long, 2–6.5 cm wide, acuminate to retuse at the apex, cuneate at the base, revolute, glabrous; petiole 1–8 mm long, glabrous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence fasciculate, 2–4 cm long, 2–6 cm wide, 1–15-flowered; peduncle 2–5 mm long, glabrous; pedicels 7–12 mm long, glabrous to puberulous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers with sepals ovate or triangular, 1.5–5.5 mm long, 1.5–4 mm wide, with a row of 7–10 colleters within; corolla white with yellow streak inside, pubescent inside on lobes, up to insertion of stamens; tube 5–14 mm long, widest above the base and around the stamens; lobes ovate, 4–15 mm long, 2–14 mm wide, apiculate, acuminate or acute, densely hairy; stamens with apex 0.2–1.8 mm below the mouth of the corolla tube, inserted 5–8 mm from the base; disk (1) 2–3 mm, usually higher than the ovary; ovary cylindrical, pubescent at the apex, rarely entirely glabrous; ovules 30–60 in each carpel; style pubescent; pistil head almost conical.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Follicles dark brown, 6–17.5 cm long, 0.6–2 cm wide; seed 10–14 mm long, dark brown; coma 10–20 mm long.
Fig. 30 (p. 90).
On river banks in forest or gallery forest; 0–750 m
K7 P T3 T6 Z

Traditional medicine, ornamental, source of natural rubber.

Native to:

Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

Introduced into:


Mascarenhasia arborescens A.DC. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jan 1, 2007 Bardot-Vaucoulon, M. [1238], Madagascar K000197166
Jan 1, 2007 Razafimandimbison, S. G. [465], Madagascar K000197168
Jan 1, 2007 Razafimandimbison, S. G. [396], Madagascar K000197167
Jan 1, 1994 Capuron, R. [20044], Madagascar K000233973 isotype
Jan 1, 1994 Baron, R. [3242], Madagascar K000233974 holotype
Jan 1, 1994 Baron, R. [5747], Madagascar K000233975 holotype
Jan 1, 1994 Whyte, A. [108], Malawi K000233976 Unknown type material
Jan 1, 1994 K000233977 isotype
Jan 1, 1994 K000233978 Unknown type material
Jan 1, 1984 Keay, R.W.J. [28663], Cameroon K000028238
Jan 1, 1984 Keay, R.W.J. [28670], Cameroon K000028239
Jan 1, 1979 Leeuwenberg, A.J.M. [10568], Cameroon K000028240
Milne-Redhead, E. [7099], Tanzania 31186.000
Timberlake, J. [5374], Mozambique K000614369

First published in Candolle, Prodr. 8: 488 (1844)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS: 1-216203. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Strugnell, A.M. (2006). A checklist of the Spermatophytes of Mt. Mulanje, Malawi Scripta Botanica Belgica 34: 1-199.


Kew Species Profiles

  • Brickell, C. (ed.) (1996). The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Garden Plants , Volume 2 (K-Z). Dorling Kingsley Ltd, London.
  • Desire, O. et al. (2010). Antispasmodic and antioxidant activities of fractions and bioactive constituent davidigenin isolated from Mascarenhasia arborescens. J. Ethnopharmacol. 130(2): 320-328.
  • Heywood, V.H., Brummitt, R.K., Culham, A. & Seberg, O. (2007). Flowering Plant Families of the World. Firefly Books, Ontario.
  • Hickey, M. & King, C. (2000). The Cambridge Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Huxley, A. (ed.) (1999). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Volume 3 (L-Q). Royal Horticultural Society, London.
  • Leeuwenberg, A.J.M. (1997). Series of revisions of Apocynaceae XLIV, Craspidospermum Boj. ex A.DC., Gonioma E.Mey., Mascarenhasia A.DC., Petchia Livera, Plectaneia Thou., and Stephanostegia Baill. Wageningen Agricultural University Papers 97-2: 1-124.
  • Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Madagascar Catalogue (2010). Mascarenhasia.
  • Palgrave, M.C. (2002). Trees of Southern Africa (Third Edition). Struik Publishers, South Africa.
  • Turk, D. (1995). A Guide to Trees of Ranomafana National Park and Central Eastern Madagascar. Tsimbazaza Botanical and Zoological Garden, Missouri Botanic Garden, St. Louis.

Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • Pichon in Mém. Inst. Sci. Madag., sér. B, 2: 81 (1949).
  • in DC. Prod. 8: 488 (1844)

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • A. DC., Prodr. 8: 488 (1844).
  • Beentje, Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas p. 482, ill. (1994).
  • Huber in Flora of West Tropical Africa ed. 2, 2: 72 (1963).
  • Kupicha in Flora Zambesiaca 7 (2): 487, t. 116 (1985).
  • Leeuwenberg in Wageningen Agric. Univ. Pap. 97, 2: 24, t. 3, phot. 1 (1997).

Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa

Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles