Witch hazel (Maingaya malayana)
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Witch hazel is the name commonly given to the medicinal plants belonging to the genus Hammelis (2), but is sometimes also used to refer to the less well known monotypic genus, Maingaya (3). The sole species in the genus is Maingaya malayana, a very rare evergreen tree with smooth bark, simple, alternate leaves, and dense, yellow flowers (3) (4) (5). In the wild it grows as a tall, sub-canopy tree, reaching up to 27 metres, but in cultivation it spreads horizontally and rarely exceeds three metres in height (4).
Confined to peninsular Malaysia, Maingaya malayana is historically known from two localities at Penang Island and Perak (1) (4). While a small population is still thought to occur on Penang Island, the persistence of the population at Perak has not been confirmed since the 19th century (3).
Maingaya malayana has been recorded in primary rainforest from 300 to 1,000 metres above sea level (4).
Aspects of the biology of Maingaya malayana are yet to be described.
It is not apparent exactly what factors contributed to Maingaya malayana’s decline in the wild, but unsustainable logging and clearance of trees for agriculture are responsible for an enormous loss of forest cover in Malaysia (6).
Although the status of Maingaya malayana in the wild appears uncertain, this species persists in several botanical gardens around the world (3) (4) (5).
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- Monotypic: a taxonomic group comprising only one member, i.e. a family with one genus or a genus with one species.
- Primary rainforest: rainforest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
IUCN Red List (December, 2009)