With A Plethora of endemic plants and rainforests, Madagascar has more plant species discovered on an annual basis than any other country. It has over 1000 species of orchid and at least 12,000 species overall and so many of these are endemic.
For example, there are about 170 different palms, and 165 are endemic. The one palm that everyone will see is the traveller’s palm (Ravanala madagascariensis). Other palms include Hyphaena shatan and Borassus madagascariensis.
All of us at The Explorations Company love Madagascar - it draws out the exploration tendencies because it is so unusual and diverse and offers something for everyone. We want to keep discovering new plants and animals, so different from other lands. One element that draws many visitors to Madagascar is the weird and wonderful plant life.
On the continent of Africa one finds the baobab tree – andonsinia livingstonia, but on Madagascar, because certain species have developed in a different way, they have six species, all looking like upturned trees with their roots in the air, but different in shape and size. Most are found in the drier areas to the west and in the desert.
One species in Madagascar only occurs here – the Didiereaceae family, found in the drier south west and is a plant that looks like a cactus with thorns and spines. The spiny forests near Berenty west of Fort Dauphin are also home to sifaka that bounce from spiny tree to spiny tree, incredibly dexterous, they manage not to get impaled. An arboretum near Tulear has some great examples of Pachypodiums.
Some plants have helped humans such as the Madagascar rosy periwinkle which was used to produce anti cancer drugs whilst other plants ‘help themselves’ - such as the pitcher plants in the south east that entice insects into their watery depths and then digest them!
Each eco system on this incredible island (fourth largest in the world) is home to differently adapted plant life, from wetlands, lowland rainforest like Masoala which has the richest biological ecosystem with higher humidity and rainfall, montane rainforest, spiny forests, and dry deciduous forest like Ankarana and Kirindy Mitea.
There is unique flora in the cloud forests (Andringitra) and again in the Tsingys. In the eastern rainforests where there is a higher rainfall, these forests are not very high but the rare dense sections have vines and epiphytes and are broadleaved forests. Tiny chameleons, the smallest in the world live on the dense forest floor and can be easily missed as they blend in so well.
Coastal forests also have mangroves, and swamps becoming home for crabs and small fish and they are a valuable resource for local peoples. On these saline alluvial soils especially in the north one finds species such as Rhizophora mucronata.
Highland forests have species such as Tambourissa, and Vernonia, Diospyros and Grewia, Symphonia and Dilobeia and drier areas to the south with its sandy soils and here are Tamarindus and Euphoribas. On the high plains are diospyros and acacias and more grasslands. Here one finds different insects and reptiles as well as birdlife and lemurs.
Of course variations of plant life around Madagascar support a variety of birdlife too. Some species only occur in the dense forest whilst other prefer the open grasslands and plains where they can chase after insects and bugs. Some like the comet orchid have symbiotic relationships with the hawk moth that pollinates it.
Madagascar and her fauna and flora are simply incredible so do make sure you visit.