Diospyros (Diospyros veillonii)

GenusDiospyros (1)

Diospyros veillonii is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Diospyros veillonii is a poorly known but highly endangered tree, restricted to just one small patch of forest on the island of New Caledonia, in the southwest Pacific (1). Little information is available on Diospyros veillonii, but, like other members of the Ebenaceae family, it is likely to be a small tree or shrub with black bark, roots and heartwood (2) (3).

The leaves of Diospyros species are alternate and have smooth edges. The male flowers usually grow in small clusters, or inflorescences, which arise from the leaf axils (the points where the leaves meet the stem of the plant). The female flowers are generally larger and slightly different in shape, and usually grow alone (2) (3).

As in most other Diospyros species, the flowers of Diospyros veillonii are likely to be articulated at the base and regular in shape. The petals are usually fused into a tube, with three to eight contorted lobes at the tip (2) (3). Like other members of the Ebenaceae family, Diospyros veillonii probably has white, cream or pinkish flowers (2).

Endemic to New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific, Diospyros veillonii is known only from a single patch of dry forest with an area of about 20 hectares, in the Paita region (1).

Diospyros veillonii is found on calcareous and other sedimentary soils (4) (5). It is restricted to dry forests, known as sclerophyll forests, on the dry west coast of New Caledonia, at elevations below 300 metres (1) (4). These forests usually have dense but not overly tall trees, and a thick understory of shrubs and grasses (6).

Very little information is available on the biology of Diospyros veillonii. However, like other Diospyros species it is likely to have separate male and female flowers, which are usually borne on separate plants (2) (3). The flowers of these species are probably pollinated by insects (3).

The fruit of Diospyros species is a berry containing between 1 and 16 seeds. The fruits and seeds are typically dispersed by birds or mammals, but have a very astringent taste until they are ripe (2) (3).

Diospyros veillonii is restricted to just one tiny area of forest, and its population has been estimated at only around 20 adult trees (1). The forest patch is privately owned, and part of the Diospyros veillonii population has already been destroyed by a bulldozed trail as part of a construction project. Surveys in surrounding areas have failed to find this species in any other location (1).

The dry forest of New Caledonia is a highly threatened habitat which has been reduced to just one or two percent of its originally extent (1) (7). The forest that does remain is highly fragmented and degraded (1) (8) (9). The main threats to New Caledonia’s dry forests are clearance for agriculture, uncontrolled fires, mining, and grazing and trampling by cattle and other introduced species, such as pigs and the Javan rusa (Rusa timorensis) (1) (6) (7) (8) (9). The site at which Diospyros veillonii occurs holds a large population of this introduced deer (1).

Climate change may also increase the frequency and severity of fires and drought on the island, posing a further potential threat to native species such as Diospyros veillonii (7).

New Caledonia is considered to be a global ‘hotspot’ of biodiversity (7). Around 75 percent of its plant species are found nowhere else (4) (7) (8) (9), and its dry forest habitat alone contains 59 endemic plants, including Diospyros veillonii (9). As this species occurs on private land, it conservation is entirely dependent on the land owner, who has been informed of its presence and appears willing to take care of it (1).

Much of New Caledonia’s dry forest remains inadequately protected, and expanding and improving the island’s protected area network is a therefore a priority. Other recommended conservation measures include habitat restoration, controlling introduced species, increasing public awareness and controlling forest fires (4) (6) (8) (9). Organisations such as Conservation International and WWF are working to address some of these issues (6) (10), and it has also been recommended that Diospyros veillonii be cultivated in ex-situ collections (1).

Find out more about conservation on New Caledonia:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2011)
  2. Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Kubitzki, K. (Ed.) (2004) The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. Volume VI: Flowering Plants. Dicotyledons: Celastrales, Oxalidales, Rosales, Cornales, Ericales. Springer-Verlag, Berlin and Heidelberg.
  4. Jaffré, T., Bouchet, P. and Veillon, J.M. (1998) Threatened plants of New Caledonia: is the system of protected areas adequate? Biodiversity and Conservation, 7: 109-135.
  5. Morat, P., Jaffré, T. and Veillon, J.M. (2001) The flora of New Caledonia’s calcareous substrates. Adansonia, 23(1): 109-127.
  6. WWF - New Caledonia Dry Forests (May, 2011)
  7. Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme - New Caledonia (May, 2011)
  8. Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots - New Caledonia (May, 2011)
  9. Bouchet, P., Jaffré, T. and Veillon, J.M. (1995) Plant extinction in New Caledonia: protection of sclerophyll forests urgently needed. Biodiversity and Conservation, 4: 415-428.
  10. Conservation International - New Caledonia (May, 2011)