Species: Jellyfish tree (Medusagyne oppositifolia)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The flowers of the jellyfish tree have numerous stamens, and it is thought that these may have given rise to the name of Medusagyne, after the ‘Medusa’ of Greek mythology who had a head of snakes.
The jellyfish tree was thought to be extinct until the 1970s, when a few trees were found, but the species still teeters on the brink of extinction. Jellyfish trees can reach up to 10 metres tall and have a dense, rounded crown of foliage. The shiny, leathery leaves have a slightly scalloped edge and turn bright red with age. The jellyfish tree is the only species in its family.
Found on the island of Mahé in the Seychelles archipelago, only approximately 50 jellyfish trees are known, surviving within 4 separate populations. Jellyfish tree seeds appear to be unable to germinate in the wild, and it is thought that trees of this species have been lost from more appropriate humid forest habitats as a result of competition and climate change. They have been successfully cultivated in botanic gardens in very humid conditions.
Three of the existing populations of jellyfish tree on the island of Mahé are protected within the Morne Seychellois National Park. Although seedlings have been grown in a number of botanic gardens, many problems remain for this species, and a conservation priority must be further research into its reproductive biology so that an effective action plan for its future can be devised.
See images of the jellyfish tree on ARKive.
Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author