Delonix pumila otherwise known as Fengoko, is an Endangered legume found in the spiny forest of south-western Madagascar. The species is a ‘dwarf tree’, standing at less than 3m tall, it is a deciduous tree with a distinctive swollen stem. Despite it’s small stature, the species has very large white flowers with dark stamens, which open at night and only last 24 hours. The dark central stamen help to attract moths, which are thought to pollinate the species as they collect nectar.
It grows in the dry spiny forest near Toliara in south-western Madagascar, where the natural vegetation is under pressure from exploitation for firewood and charcoal production. Increased urbanization and grazing of livestock also lead to further degradation of the habitat quality and extent. Many of the species in the spiny forest, including D. pumila, are naturally slow-growing so the regeneration of the species is unable to keep up with increased rates of degradation.
Recent genetic analysis show that D. pumila consists of a single population, and that the level of genetic diversity is low compared to other species in the genus. This may limit its ability to adapt to environmental change.
Some ex situ conservation measures have been taken. For example, seed collections are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank (Wakehurst Place, UK) as well as in Madagascar by Silo National des Graines Forestières (SNGF). Living collections are also found in Arboretum d’Antsokay which is devoted to conservation of plants from the southwestern part of Madagascar, and is located in the natural range of D. pumila.
Did you know?
Three of Madagascar’s six endemic baobab species are threatened with extinction.