Vakwa montany (Pandanus balfourii)

Also known as: balfour’s pandanus, vacoa borde de mer, Vacoa de riviere
GenusPandanus (1)
SizeHeight: up to 8 m (2)

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

The vakwa montany belongs to the Pandanus group of plants, also known as the screw pines after the spiral arrangement of the leaves (2). The drooping leaves of this species are leathery in texture and up to 1.5 metres long. Small, white spines line the edges and midrib of each leaf. These leaves are borne at the end of slender branches, forming a semi-orbicular crown (2). The vakwa montany bears large fruits, up to 25 centimetres long, which hang from stalks and comprise of 70 to 90 drupes. Each drupe is yellow at the base, blending into red and then green towards the top. The drupes are packed tightly together at the base, in a spiral arrangement (2). Nearly all screw pines have stilt roots (3); roots that arise from the lower part of the trunk, and bend down in a curve into the soil, so that the slender trunk appears to be standing on stilts. It is believed that these roots acts as props and support the tree, increasing its resistance to strong winds (4).

Endemic to the Seychelles, where it occurs on the islands of Mahé, Silhouette, Praslin, La Diegue, Frégate, North, Curieuse, Aride, Félicité, Cousin and Cousine (5).

The vakwa montany prefers habitats at low altitudes and is rarely found above 150 metres (2).

It is generally thought that Pandanus species are pollinated by wind, although pollination by insects and other animals may also be likely. The fleshy drupes of Pandanus species are eaten by animals, which results in the seeds being excreted in a location away from the parent tree, but the dispersal of seeds by sea currents also occurs (6).

Having no economic use has resulted in the vakwa montany surviving in many locations where perhaps other trees have been over-exploited (2), and populations are said to be healthy and stable (1). However, it is classified as Vulnerable to extinction due to its small range, which makes it susceptible to any threats that may arise (1).

There are no specific conservation measures known to be in place for the vakwa montany.

For further information on biodiversity and conservation in the Seychelles see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)