Syzygium travancoricum Gamble


The tree was first discovered in the swampy lowlands (altitude less than 65 m) of Travancore by Bourdillon in 1894. Gamble [17] described it in 1918 in the Kew Bulletin and in the Flora of the Presidency of Madras in 1919. The Red Data Book of Indian Plants [8], quoting Nair and Mohanan [18], states: “Apparently no tree is surviving in the type locality. Recently only four trees have been spotted in a sacred grove of Aikad in Quilon district”. However, Sasidharan [11] rediscovered it in the type locality - Shenduruny Wildlife Sanctuary. According to him this species, endemic to southern Western Ghats of Kerala, is associated with the Myristicaswamp forests.


We came across about 35 trees of this species in association with some of the Myristica swamps of Siddapur taluk (14.4° N). The tree occurred along with several other Western Ghat endemics such as Aglaia anamallayana, Calophyllum apetalum, Diospyros paniculata, D. pruriens, Dipterocarpus indicus, Gymnocranthera canarica, Holigarna grahamii, Hydnocarpus pentandra, Hopea ponga, Mastixia arborea, Myristica fatua var. magnifica, Pinanga dicksonii, etc. In Ankola taluk, a single tree was observed in a Myristica swamp (Fig. 4a). Some bushy forms, obviously coppice shoots (Fig. 4b), occurred close to it. The occurrence of the species in Ankola is a range extension for it by about 700 km from Travancore (Fig. 2), where it was considered to be restricted.

Fig. (4). a) Syzygium travancoricum – habit; b) coppicing stump; c) floating water roots; d) a single flower and e) twig with fruits.


Gamble [17] described the species as medium sized or large tree, while, Sasidharan [11] found only small trees. The largest trees that we observed were about 30 m in height. Two of the trees had girths of 253 and 254 cm respectively. The older trees have buttresses at the base. The young branchlets are 4-angled; in the saplings the angles are winged. Stream side trees have floating water roots, an adaptation to swampy habitat (Fig. 4c). Leaves are simple, opposite, ovate and bluntly acute towards the tip. The leaf base is shortly decurrent (continued) on the 2 cm long petiole. Leaf measures 9-18 cm in length and 6-9 cm in breadth. It has 12- 15 pairs of lateral nerves. Flowers occur in the axils of leaves in corymbose cymes of 5-8 cm long (Fig. 4d). They are very small, only 3 mm across. The white petals form a calyptra (cap) in the bud enclosing the stamens. Fruits 0.7-1 cm across, purplish to maroon-red (Fig. 4e). Fruits ripen in May- June. None of the floras provide the description of the fruit although it is sketched in the flora of Shenduruny Wildlife Sanctuary [11].