It is usually the rich and unique endemic vegetation of Madagascar that gets all the attention from tourists, biologists, and conservationists. Yet the species that humans brought to the island also deserve attention as plants emblematic of human history and as builders of societies and environments. What would the island be without rice, litchi, and vanilla? What would the highland landscape be like without eucalypts, apples, and jacaranda? Some of the new plants cause problems by becoming too successful (the stories of prickly pear, water hyacinth, pine, or various crop field weeds are instructive), but many have contributed to the landscapes of the island – as the raw materials of peoples’ lives; as colours, fascinations, smells, and sights; as memories and emotions; and even as habitat, perches, and food for lemurs, bats, and endemic birds. An article that I’ve just published together with several colleagues seeks to analyse this new flora, which we catalogue in a lengthy inventory – the first of its kind in 80 years.
The introduced flora of Madagascar