Masiratu (Degeneria vitiensis)

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Masiratu flower and fruit
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Masiratu fact file

Masiratu description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderMagnoliales
FamilyDegeneriaceae
GenusDegeneria (1)

The masiratu is a large, tropical canopy tree belonging to an ancient family of flowering plants closely related to the magnolias (2). Indeed, the glossy, light green leaves are magnolia-like in appearance with a simple leaf shape and alternate arrangement on the stem (2) (3). Its primitive, off-white flowers are four to eight centimeters across, and contain a single carpel and numerous leaf-like stamens, some of which are sterile (staminodes) and covered with a bright-yellow, oily fluid (2) (3) (4). The fruit are kidney-shaped, about six to twelve centimetres long, and contain numerous red or orange seeds embedded in a spongy pulp (2). Upon ripening, the fruit opens like an oyster, exposing the seeds which dangle from short stalks (3).

Size
Height: up to 35 m (2)
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Masiratu biology

Although the reproductive biology of the masiratu has been poorly studied, both its pollination and seed dispersal strategies appear to exploit animal relationships. Its flowers, which open at night, are visited by a beetle which feeds on pollen and the sticky fluid produced by the staminodes. In doing so, there is a strong probability that it transfers pollen from one flower to the stigma of another, thereby pollinating the plant (2) (3) (4). Further along the cycle of reproduction, native pigeons, parrots and fruit doves frequently eat the fruit of the masiratu. While a bird may destroy some of the seeds in the process, some seeds are scarified as they pass through the digestive tract of the bird, likely assisting in the seeds’ germination (2) (3).

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Masiratu range

The masiratu is endemic to the Fijian islands of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni (1).

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Masiratu habitat

This species occurs in moist tropical forest (3).

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Masiratu status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Masiratu threats

The masiratu is considered vulnerable to extinction as it only occurs in small and scattered populations over a restricted range (1). While the individual trees and stands of this species are too sporadic to be actively sought (2), clearance of trees for agriculture presents one of the biggest threats to the forests of Fiji (5).

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Masiratu conservation

While there are currently no known conservation strategies in place for the masiratu, approximately 68 square kilometres of moist forest is protected in Fiji (5). The distribution of the masiratu within Fiji’s protected areas is not well documented but it is certainly known from at least one nature reserve, the Garrick Memorial Reserve on Viti Levu. This 400 hectare reserve is one of the most important areas for the protection of tropical moist rainforest in Fiji but currently receives very little management (6) (7).

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Find out more

For further information on forest conservation see:

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Authentication

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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Carpel
The female reproductive unit of a flower.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Germination
The beginning of growth, usually following a period of dormancy and in response to favourable conditions. For example, the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.
Scarified
The exposure of a seed to a physical or chemical agent that induces germination.
Stamens
The male reproductive organs of a flower. Each stamen is comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).
Staminodes
Sterile stamens that lack functional anthers.
Stigma
The receptive part of the female reproductive organ of a flower. Pollen germinates on the stigma.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Sampson, F.B. (2002) Magnoliales. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley and Sons, New York. Available at:
    http://www.els.net
  3. Gigantopteroid (November, 2008)
    http://www.gigantopteroid.org/
  4. Endress, P.K. (1996) Diversity and evolutionary biology of tropicalflowers. Cambridge University Press, New York.
  5. WWF (November, 2008)
    http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/oc/oc0105_full.html
  6. Paine, J.R. (1991) IUCN Directory of Protected Areas in Oceania. IUCN, Gland.
  7. Department of the Environment. (1997) Convention on Biological Diversity 1997 National Report to the Conference of the Parties by the Republic of Fiji. Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Environment, Suva, Fiji. Available at:
    http://www.sprep.org/att/IRC/eCOPIES/CBD/Fiji_NBSAP_1.pdf
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Image credit

Masiratu flower and fruit  
Masiratu flower and fruit

© Paddy Ryan

Paddy Ryan
Ryan Photographic
2802 East 132nd Circle
Thornton
CO
80241
USA
Tel: +01 (303) 457 9795
paddyaryan@aol.com
http://www.ryanphotographic.com/

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