The Philatelist’s Pick: Fauna and Flora, Part III: Endemic bird species

This new blog series features birds (and flying mammals) species from Mauritius: endemic and those brought in over the years. This first blog in the series looks at some endemic bird species that are featured on stamps.

There is a total of 119 bird species in Mauritius, of which 15 are endemic (11 in Mauritius and 4 in Rodrigues) and 25 are indigenous species. Sadly, about 15 known species are now extinct. They are (the scientific name and approximate extinction date are shown in brackets):

  1. The dodo (Raphus cucullatus, 1662);
  2. The broad-billed or raven parrot (Lophopssittacus mauritianus, 1680);
  3. The red rail (Aphanapteryx bonasia, 1760);
  4. The Mauritian grey parrot (Lophopsittacus bensoni, 1770);
  5. The fruit pigeon or Dutch pigeon (Alectruenas nitidissima, 1840);
  6. The owl (Otus commerson, 1650);
  7. The owl (Tylosauzieri, 1850);
  8. The Mauritius Shelduck (late 17th C); and
  9. The Mauritius Night Heron (late 17th C).

The 4 extinct species of Rodrigues Island are:

  1. The Rodrigues Parrot,
  2. The Rodrigues Rail,
  3. The Rodrigues Starling, and
  4. The Rodrigues Solitaire.

The dodo

Scientists confirm that the dodo lived for thousands of years on the island of Mauritius. The bird was made extinct before the end of the 1600s by the introduction of men and various animals such as pigs, deers, rats, monkeys, cats and dogs. However, it was difficult to imagine what it looked like. We had to rely on drawings and paintings, in particular the one printed in an edited version of Admiral Cornelius van Neck’s journal published in 1601, after visiting Mauritius in 1598.

The first representations of the Dodo on stamps date back to the pictorial series of King George VI in 1950, and reproduced in 1954 in Queen Elizabeth II pictorial series on the 60cs stamp.

Both stamps  show the Dodo and a map of Mauritius. The King George VI 12 cs stamp shows the latitude incorrectly as 21° 10´ (instead of 20° 10). This ‘error’ was corrected when the same design stamp with the head of Queen Elizabeth was issued in 1954.

The dodo also features on our Coats of Arms and was the mascot of the “Jeux des Iles de l’Ocean Indien, organised in Mauritius in 1985.

Image result for stamps dodo mauritius Image result for dodo on stampsImage result for jeux des iles ocean indien stamps

25 June 2007: The Dodo finally gets its own Official First Day Cover

It is only in 2007 that a set of postage stamps/ souvenir sheet issued by the Mauritius Post portrayed different representations of the Dodo, through drawings and paintings of various artists at different times.

2007 25 June - The Dodo FDC

  1. Rs. 5 shows a drawing found in the Journal of Admiral W. Harmenszoon, who visited Mauritius in1601 and published in the Gerlderland. The journal has 4 drawings of the living Dodo and one of a dead one;
  2. Rs. 10 is a drawing by Adrian Van de Venne, picturing a rather fat dodo, drawn around 1626. It can be found in the library of the University of Utrecht;
  3. Rs 15 is a painting which appeared in a publication by Harrison, Cluse and co, in 1798;
  4. Rs 25 is a chromolithograph by J. W. Frohawk, taken from Lord W. Rothschild’s Extinct Birds, published in 1907.

The FDC is a reproduction of the Dodo’s head from a bronze statue situated at Ile aux Aigrettes.

On that occasion, a souvenir sheet was also released

The souvenir sheet shows a nice painting by Julian Pender Hume, a paleontologist and painter. It shows a reconstruction of endemic fauna of Mauritius.

MS Dodo 2007

…and the whole set (4 stamps and souvenir sheet) was nicely bundled in a presentation pack 

2007 25 June - The Dodo presentation pack

Birds unique to Mauritius

Birds unique to Mauritius include several species that have been rescued from the very edge of extinction including the Mauritius Kestrel; the Pink Pigeon, and the Echo Parakeet. Other endemic birds include the Mauritius Olive White-eye, the Mauritius Gray White-eye, the Mauritius Cuckooshrike, the Mauritius Bulbul , the Rodrigues Warbler, the Mauritius Fody, and the Rodrigues Fody. The Mauritius Paradise Flycatcher  is sometimes considered a distinct species from the one occurring on Reunion.

On 16 March 1965, a set of 15 postage stamps was released. They featured a selection of endemic birds of Mauritius and Rodrigues. Of the 15 stamps, 5 are sadly extinct.

1965 - 16 March - Birds definitive series

The series include the 10 living birds, some of which are considered as endangered and vulnerable. They are subject to a vast programme of conservation and protection, which helped to save the most vulnerable of them. These are:

  1. the Grey white-eye or oiseau manioc on a 2cs stamp, a native bird which can be found in various parts of the island. It is not considered as an endangered specie and can be easily recognized by its prominent white rump;
  2. the Rodrigues Fody, or oiseau jaune on a 3cs stamp, a yellow-breasted bird, native to Rodrigues. This specie has become rarer over the years;
  3. the olive white eye or oiseau pit-pit on a 4cs stamp, a rare bird which can be seen in forest areas. It is the smallest of Mauritian songbirds and is easily identified by the bright white circles around their eyes, a dull olive-green upper body with lighter underparts. Males and females look very similar and are small in build. These birds can be found in the forested areas of Black River Gorges National Park and the Macchabée-Bel Ombre Biosphere Reserve.
  4. the Paradise Flycatcher or coq des bois on a 5 cs stamp, an increasingly rare bird, which can still be seen in protected forest areas. The male has a blackish head with a grey band around its neck, throat, breast and belly. The upper parts are a deep chestnut and the tips of the wing are black. The bill has a bluish hue and the legs are grey. The females are very similar, but are smaller and less brilliant than the males;
  5. the Mauritius Fody or cardinal on a 10cs stamp, a small endemic songbird that at one time was extremely common but is now sadly, also endangered. It can still be seen, if you are lucky, in the forests of the Black River Gorges National Park. The male Mauritius Fody has brilliant red plumage from its head to its chest, with an orange patch on his rump during the breeding season – which earned it the name of ‘cardinal’. The female is far duller than her male, with olive-brown plumage and slightly darker wings;
  6. the Echo Parakeet or grosse cateau verte on a 15cs stamp, is an emerald green, vibrant, endemic parrot to Mauritius and is the last remaining species of Mascarene island parrots. It can only be seen in the Black River Gorges area. Females and males differ: males have a marking that looks like a neck collar that the females don’t have and red upper beaks, whereas the beak of the female bird is pitch black;
  7. the cuckoo shrike or Merle cuisinier on a 20cs stamp, one of the rarest bird found only in remote forest areas. There are differences in colour between males and females. The male’s upper parts are grey, with white underparts. The upperparts of the female are brownish with rufous underparts.
  8. the Kestrel on a 25 cs stamp, one of the world’s rarest birds, which came very close to extinction in the 1970s. In 1974 when there were only four individual birds left. Thanks to extensive conservation efforts, these birds can now be found in their natural habitat where they are thriving and breeding successfully.  Interestingly, both the female and the male are very similar in appearance and they have short wings, long tails and legs with short talons. The upper body is a deep chestnut with black markings while the underside is a creamy white with dark sports.
  9. the pink pigeon or pigeon des mares on a 35cs stamp, a type of pigeon found in the Columbidae family endemic to Mauritius. Like the Mauritius kestrels, these unique birds were critically endangered in the 1990s (there were only 10 individuals of this species left in 1991) and remain incredibly rare today. Their survival today is due to the intensive conservation efforts. They can be seen in the upland forests around Black River Gorges. 
  10. the Mascarene Bul-bul or merle on a 50cs stamp. It is characterized by bright yellow-brown eyes, pink legs, and an orange to yellow-hued bill. Its plumage is generally greyish contrasted with a black crest. In earlier times, it was often served as a dish on festive days. Later, its main threats shifted to the replacement of their forest habitat, notably by tea plantations  and predation by the introduced crab-eating macaque. In the mid-1970s, only 200 pairs remained, but then the decline was stopped. Today it is rare but has a quite stable population.

The series also include 5 extinct endemic species, namely:

  1. the Blue or Dutch Pigeon on a 60cs stamp. The name of the bird came from the colours of the plumage, which looks like the Dutch flag. The bird was first mentioned in the 17th century, but very few accounts describe the behaviour of living specimens. Several stuffed and at least one live specimen reached Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Only three stuffed specimens are known today. The species is thought to have become extinct in the 1830s due to deforestation and predation.
  2. the dodo on the Re. 1 stamp, a unique and large bird, of the family of pigeons. It became extinct between 1681 and 1693.
  3. the Rodrigues Solitaire on the Rs. 2.50 stamp, a relative of the Dodo, believed to have evolved independently on Rodrigues Island. The Rodrigues Solitaire laid one egg each year, which was a little larger than that of a goose. It became extinct towards 1760;
  4. the Red Rail or poule rouge on the Rs. 5 stamp. The rail was approximately of the size of a domestic hen. It could not fly because of its wings and was consequently an easy prey of fowlers on the island. It became extinct about 1675; and
  5. the Broad-billed parrot on the Rs. 10 stamp. The overall plumage, slate-blue colour of this bird made it a remarkable specimen of indigenous birds of Mauritius. It had short wings and was probably incapable of flying. It is believed to have been one of the first victims of human settlement and was exterminated towards 1650.

A set of 4 postage stamps was released in 1967, one year before independence on the theme birds of Mauritius.

1967 Self Gov Commemorative issue Birds Sep

The stamps feature the following birds:

  1. the Paille en Queue or Red-tailed tropicbird on the 2cs stamp: This remarkable bird that inspired the logo for Air Mauritius, is a gorgeous seabird found along the shores of many tropical islands and in Mauritius, where you stand a chance to see both the beautiful red-tailed and the white-tailed tropicbird. These wonderful creatures are easily identified by their long, trailing tail feathers and distinctive bills (red tail feathers and red bill, and white tail feathers and yellow bills respectively). While both the red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds are solitary by nature, the red-tailed species is quite a bit larger with their average weight being around 800g compared to the white-tailed tropicbirds 350g. Catch these beautiful creatures gliding elegantly in phenomenal arial displays during the breeding season. 
  2. the Rodrigues brush warbler or rousserole de Rodrigues, on the 10 cs stamp, an endemic bird species found only in Rodrigues, but which is highly endangered. It is a medium-sized bird, with relatively long bill and legs, long graduated tail, and short wings. It has a yellowish supercilium and short dark eyestripe. 
  3. the Rodrigues Parakeet (Necropsittacus rodricanus) on the 60 cs stamp, is an extinct species of parrot that was endemic to  Rodrigues. The Rodrigues parrot bore similarities to the broad-billed parrot of Mauritius, and may have been related. The Rodrigues parrot was green, and had a proportionally large head and beak along with a long tail. It was the largest parrot on Rodrigues. By the time it was discovered, it frequented and nested on islets off southern Rodrigues, where introduced rats were absent, and fed on the seeds. It was last mentioned in 1761, and probably became extinct soon after, perhaps due to a combination of predation by rats, deforestation, and hunting by humans.
  4. the Mascarene (Mauritius) swiftlet on the Re. 1 stamp, is a species of swift in the family Apodidae. It is found in Mauritius and Réunion. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical lands and forest. It is threatened by habitat loss.

In 1968, six stamps of the 1965 bird issue were re-printed, in different colours as shown in the unofficial FDC below.

1968 Special bird issue FDC


The Mauritian kestrel

The Mauritius kestrel (Falco punctus) is a bird of prey from the family Falconidae, endemic to the forests of Mauritius, where can only be found on the Western plateau’s forests, cliffs and ravines. It is the most distinct of Indian Ocean kestrels. 

It is a relatively small bird, of a size between 26 and 30.5 cms, for a weight of about 250 grams. The males are slightly smaller than the females. Their wingspan is approximately 45 cms and their wings are rounded, unlike other falcons. They can live up to 15 years in captivity. The Mauritius kestrel is carnivorous: it eats  geckos, dragonflies, cicadas, cockroaches, crickets and small birds.

As from the 1960s, with the increase in population, deforestation and the introduction of chemical fertilisers, such as DDT (to eliminate malaria for ex.), the population of kestels declined sharply and the species became critically endangered. The recorded population dropped to an all-time low of only 4 individuals in 1974 and it was considered the rarest bird in the world. With the support of the Wildlife Foundation and various institutions, a vast programme of conservation was undertaken in the 1980s.

The Rs. 5 stamp released in 1978 as part of a set of 4 postage stamps, and featured on individual covers on the below WWF cover honours the Mauritius kestrel, one of the rarest birds in the world.

21 September 1978: Mauritius Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund First Day Cover

1978 21 Sep - Mauritius wild life SC4

A predatory bird, the kestrel hovers in the air over open fields while it searches for mice, moles, lizards or shrews. When it sees its prey, it will dive steeply downwards, grasp the small animal in its talons and swoop away to a nearby perch to devour it.

Also on 26 March 1984, the Mauritius post released an official first day cover on the Kestrel Issue

1984 26 March Kestrel

The four stamps show the following:

  1. 25 cs, shows 2 kestrels in a courtship chase;
  2. 2.50 stamp, shows a juvenile kestrel
  3. 2 stamp, features a full portray of a kestrel; and
  4. 10 stamp, illustrustes a head portrait of the kestrel (and reproduced on the cover envelope).

Mauritian Pink Pigeon

The pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) or pigeon des mares, is a species in the family Columbidae, and is endemic to Mauritius. Habitat degradation, introduced predators, and wildlife disease are the major ongoing threats to the pink pigeon’s survival. The pink pigeons were critically endangered in the 1990s, when only 10 individuals had been recorded and are still considered as very rare. It is the only Mascarene pigeon that has not gone extinct.

 Will extensive support from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust since 1977, the number of pink pigeons have substially increased. In 2011, there were about 500 birds.

On 2nd September 1985 the Mauritius post released a on official first day cover on the theme Mauritius Pink Pigeon 

1985 2 Sep - Pigeon des mares OFC

The official first day cover features 4 postage stamps, as follows:

  1. 25 cs, showing an adult and a juvenile pigeon;
  2. 2, featuring a nest site display;
  3. 2.50, highlighting an adult in his nest; and
  4. Rs 5, showing a couple of adults, in mutual preening.

The World Wild Life Fund released also a set of individual covers, official proof editions as well as maxi cards to mark this special edition. They are all featured below.

1985 - WWF special cover 21985 2 Sep - WWF Special cover 11985 2 Sep - WWF special cover 31985 2 Sep - WWF Special cover 4

 1985 2 Sep - pink pigeon offical proof_31985 2 Sep - pink pigeon official proof_1

1985 2 Sep - pink pigeon official proof_21985 2 Sep - pink pigeon official proof_4

1985 2 Sep - WWF Postcard_11985 2 Sep - WWF postcard_2

1985 2 Sep - WWF postcard_41985 2 Sep - WWF postcard_3

Echo Parakeet or grosse cateau verte

The echo parakeet or Mauritius parakeet (Psittacula eques, also known as grosse cateau verte) is an parrot endemic to Mauritius. It has dark green plumage with a black collar. Males have a red beak whereas females and juveniles have black beaks. It is arboreal, usually found in upper tree branches. Feeding during the day, it mainly eats fruit and flowers, supplemented by leaves, seeds, buds, shoots, twigs, and bark; more leaves are eaten in the winter when fruit is scarce.

The population of the Echo Parakeet  began to decline in numbers and range in the mid-1800s. By 1986 the population was estimated to be 8–12 individuals. The present wild Echo Parakeet population is restricted to an area of less than 40 km2  of remnant native upland forest within the 6,800 hectare Black River Gorges National Park.

The survival of this species is threatened by the limited availability of natural nest sites and food, competition from exotic birds such as Indian Mynahs and Indian Ring-neck Parakeets, predation by introduced mammals including Ship Rats and Crab-eating Macaques, and disease.  

On 18 March 2003, a set of 4 postage stamps showing echo parakeets was issued. The echo parakeet endemic only to Mauritius was very common in the 18th and 19th century, but gradually disappeared, as was close to extinction.

2003 19 March Echo Parakeet FDC

The stamps depicts on:

  1. Re. 1 denomination shows a chick;
  2. Rs. 2 denomination shows a fledging parakeet;
  3. Rs. 5 denomination features a female parakeet and
  4. Rs. 15 denomination pictures a male parakeet. 

With the support of the Wildlife Preservation Trust in 1987, a full scale programme was launched to carry out captive breeding to save the specie. This set of 4 enveloppes have been published by WWF, along with the set of 4 maxi cards, featured below.

2003 19 March - Echo Parakeet WWF_42003 19 March - Echo Parakeet WWF_3

2003 19 March - Echo Parakeet WWF_22003 19 March - Echo Parakeet WWF_1

2003 19 March - Echo Parakeet postcards_1

2003 19 March - Echo Parakeet postcard_2

Bats of Mauritius and Rodrigues.

Bats are not birds, but mammals. In its series on Mauritius wildlife released on 21 September 1978, the Rs. 1.50 stamp features the Mauritian flying fox. 

1978 21 Sep - Mauritius wild life SC3

In 1978, the WWF cover honoured the the flying fox, a large fruit bat, indigenous to the Island of Mauritius. These mammals, with their sharply pointed foxlike snouts are features on the stamp and on the original engraving on the envelope.

The diet of the flying fox consists entirely of the juice of sweet, aromatic fruits such as mangos, papayas or litchis. The flying fox can have a wingspan of over 5 feet and is covered with dense, variably covered fur tinged with dark brown. They measure up to 16 inches and have very large eyes with keen eyesight. The claws on their index finger as well as on their thumb allow the bats to cling to tree branches while sleeping. Sometimes, if the night air is cool, they wrap their wing membranes tightly around their bodies. When the temperature rises however, the wings open and gently fan the air. This their body temperatures remain relatively constant.

Active mainly in the evening and at night, prefer high trees as resting places. At rest, the flying fox is a gregarious animal, often roosting in large groups.

On 28 March 2014, in its series “Fauna and Flora” a set of 3 postage stamps was issued.

2014 28 March - Fauna and Flora

The Rs 14 stamp represents the rousette of Rodrigues (Pteropus rodricensis) a fruit bat, now only found in Rodrigues. The population of the bat has declined rapidly making it a critically endangered specie. An education programme to raise awareness about conservation of the bat was very successful

TheRodrigues Rousette was featured on an amazing maxi card, released by the Birdman of Mauritius, with the Rs. 14 stamp of the Fauna and Flora series, released on the same day as the official first day cover. 

2014 28 March - Bats postcard


The Philatelist’s Pick: Flora & Fauna of Mauritius – Part II: Plants introduced in Mauritius

In this second blog, I will talk about other plants that were introduced during colonial times. Some of those plants were introduced for economic reasons, and continue today, to contribute to our national income. Others, like spices and fruits, were brought by eminent botanists, for the greatest benefit of our culinary traditions.

 Sugar cane

 Sugar can was introduced from Java in 1639 during the Dutch settlement period by Governor Adriaan Van der Stel. It was first grown in the region of Ferney. Two sugar processing plants were established by 1641 but sugar production was abandoned by 1652.

The cultivation of sugar cane however continued for the production of arrak, an alcoholic beverage similar to rum. By then end of the 17th century Jan Bockelberg, a junior surgeon of the colony, produced both white and black sugar.

 During the French settlement period, sugar cane production was re-instated under Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais and was successfully cultivated. Slaves were brought from various parts of Africa and from Madagascar to work in the fields.

 In 1810, when the British conquered Mauritius, 10% of the island was under sugarcane cultivation. Sir Robert Farqhuar, the first British Governor felt sugar was an important asset for Mauritius and the area under cane production was further increased. The expansion of sugar cane slowed down in 1835 due to shortage of labour, following the abolition of slavery but the arrival of Indian immigrants relaunched production. New varieties were introduced, roads and railways were constructed to facilitate transport.

 At the turn of the 20th century the sugar industry suffered from the fall in world prices. Reforms were undertaken and production was centralised and mechanised and the number of factories were reduced. Once the backbone of the economy, today the Mauritian economy is very diversified. Although sugar remains an important contributor to the economy, its share has largely declined. Producers have diversified into rum and energy production.

Two sets of postage stamps were issued on the theme sugar cane. The first was issued on 22 December 1969, to mark the improvements and innovations introduced by Charles Telfair, a British planter, for the sugar cane industry. In 1819, Telfair introduced the first horizontal roller mill capable of extracting more juice from sugar cane than before canes. Telfair is pictured on the Rs. 2.50 stamp. The 15 cents stamp shows a vertical cane crusher, used in the early 19th century, before technological improvements introduced by Charles Telfair. The 60 cents stamp shows the Beau Rivage sugar mill, as it was in 1867. The Re. 1 stamp shows Mon Desert Alma Factory in the background of its sugar cane fields in 1969.


1969 Annivero f sugar industry special cover
1969: Sesqui Centenary (150th anniversary) commemorative issue of Telfair’s improvement, special cover

On 10 January 1990 a set of 4 postage stamps was issued to mark the 350th anniversary of the introduction of sugar cane in Mauritius.

1990 10 Jan - 350th anniversary of intro of sugar cane

The set of stamps show different aspects of the production process, as follows:

(i) The 30cents stamp, shows manual cane cutting;

(ii) The 40 cents featues Beau Rivage Sugar factory in 1867 (this is a reprint from the 1969 stamp);

(iii) The Re 1 shows the mechanical loading of sugar cane; and

(iv) The Rs 2e features a modern sugar factory.

 The sugarcane plant also featured on the Mauritius Coats of Arms, and was represented on various postage stamps until it was replaced by the palm tree in in 1906. Indeed, the Coats of Arms design was first issued in 1895, representing a 3-mast ship, three sugarcane plants, a key and wedge and a star, called in heraldry, the pile and the mullet.  In 1906, under the administration of Sir Cavendish Boyle, the Arms were corrected because some elements of the designed appeared to be against the rules of the heraldry. A re-designed version was issued in 1910: the galleon was replaced by a lymphad (a galley – the caravelle), palm trees replaced the sugar cane; the key was flipped and the star became five pointed. The overall designed remained however the same.

Coats of Arms1Coats of Arms 2

Tea plantation

 Tea was introduced in Mauritius by a French priest, Father Galloys in 1760. However, under the French rule, tea production was not a priority and even the botanist Pierre Poivre kept it as a museum plant.

 In the early 19th Century, Sir Robert Farquhar, British Governor of Mauritius, encouraged tea cultivation on a commercial basis but again, cultivation was abandoned when he left the island. The industry really developed under the leadership of British Governor Sir Pope Hennessy, 70 years after Farquhar. Plantations began at Nouvelle France and Chamarel. One of the pioneers was Raoul Corson. In the 1960s, it was decided to further intensify cultivation in the humid zones.

 However, in the 1990s, due to competition from major producers in Sri Lanka, India and Kenya, production declined significantly. A number of plantations were converted into sugar production. Today, there are 3 tea factories, namely Bois Cheri, Corson and La Chartreuse. Production is mainly for domestic production and very few, high grade teas, are produced for exports. Producers have also diversified in ‘creative blending’ and herbal teas. Today, Mauritius produces about 20 varieties of tea and assorted products.

2011 19 Dec - Tea Industry

 Tea is well anchored in the Mauritian culture and the average consumption of tea on the island is one kg. per head annually. Four postage stamps and a FDC were issued on the Tea Industry on 19th December 2011. The Rs. 7 stamp show a tea plant (leaves and bud); the Rs. 8 stamp illustrates the process of tea plucking, an activity still conducted manually; the Rs. 15 stamp shows tea as a product ready for consumption, once processing is done; and the Rs. 25 stamp illustrates tea beverage, once prepared and ready to drink. 


On 1 December 2004, a set of 4 stamps was issued on the theme “Anthuriums”, a perennial herbaceous plant, originating from South America. The plants were introduced in Mauritius in the 19th Century from Europe. 

The colours of anthuriums vary from satin white to morning-dew pink to frosted pink, and from bright orange to crimson-red. The leaves of the anthuriums are also heart-shaped, though wider in size. They are cultivated for their lasting flowers, which are produced throughout the year.

The four varieties pictured on the cover are of Dutch origin, mainly cultivated for the export market. They are:

  1. On the Rs. 2 stamp, Anthurium andreanum, variety acropolis;
  2. On the Rs. 8 stamp (and on the cover envelope), Anthurium andreanum, variety tropical;
  3. On the Rs. 10 stam, Anthurium andreanum, variety paradisio; and
  4. On the Rs. 25 stamp, Anthurium andreanum, variety fantasia.

2004 1 Dec - Anthuriums


To some extent, Mauritius was discovered thanks to spices. In fact, Mauritius was an important port along the “Spice Route”, that is, the trade route between Europe and India along which lucrative spices were traded from the 16th century onward. Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, British and French all crossed the Indian Ocean in their quest for those precious spices.

Pierre Poivre was the first to introduce spice culture in Isle de France, under French Rule to break the Dutch monopoly, notably following his visits to Indonesia, China, the Philippines, the Moluccas and Madagascar in the mid-1750’s.

He introduced spices such as pepper, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. Poivre proceeded to cultivate these plants during a three-year stay on the island, transforming an old French East India Company nursery at Pamplemousses in north-eastern Mauritius into a formal botanical garden (now called the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden). It is said that Poivre introduced more than 600 rare plants into Mauritius and the Pamplemousses Gardens from around the world, like mango and breadfruit trees, cocoa, lychees, coconut palms, ebony and mahogany trees, laurel and camphor trees.

After the abolition of slavery during the English era, Mauritius saw the arrival of indentured labourers. Coming from India, these migrants brought with them other spices, such as saffron, star anise, turmeric and chili. Today, the country has a wide variety of spices, all used to flavour culinary preparations.

1995 10 march - Spices

On 10 March 1995, a set of four postage stamps on spices forms part of the Nature series of Mauritius.  Though none of the spices portrayed in this set is endemic, they have been adopted and adapted by all. The four denominations are:

  • 40 cs, representing the nutmeg, a spice widely used in the Mauritian cuisine. The brown seed (the part used as a spice) is covered by a crimson aril, called mace;
  • 4 stamp shows the coriander plant and seed – commonly known as cotomili in Mauritius. Both leaves and fruits are used in culinary preparations;
  • 5 stamp shows cloves, a spice indigenous to the Moluccas, where the Dutch has a monopoly over spice trade. Introduced in the 18th century by Pierre Poivre, the spice is widely used in sweet and savoury preparations;
  • 10 shows the cardamom, a plant used in antique times by the Greek as an antidote for poisoning. The seed presents a pleasant aroma and is used both in culinary preparation and in medicine.

The FDC illustrates local chillies.

 Rare Fruits

Mauritius has a wide variety of exotic fruits, most were imported from various botanists that visited Mauritius over the years. A set of postal stamps features four different types of edible fruits was issued in 1997:

  • The 60 cents stamp shows both a ripe and a green vavang (vangueria madagascariensis), which comes from a plant originating in Madagascar. The fruit gradually turns brown when ripening;
  • The Rs. 4 stamp features a green and ripe Pom Zako (mimusops coriacea), from a tree that was introduced in the early years of colonisation from Madagascar. It has a sweetish flesh and a pleasant smell;
  • The Rs. 5 stamp shows a zambos (syzygium jambos), from a plant originating from the Indo-Malaysian region, introduced in the late 17th century;
  • The Rs. 10 represents some unripe sapot negro, from a plant originating in the West Indies and Central America, brought to Mauritius in 1772.

 The FDC illustrates the rusay fruit (eugenia uniflora).

1997 10 March - Rare fruits 

Freshwater flora 

2016 18 Oct - Freshwater Flora

A set of 4 postage stamps was issued on 18 October 2016 on the theme “Freshwater Flora”:

  • The Rs. 11 stamp is water hyssop (Bacopa monniera). This small perennial herb is a native species to the Mascarenes and is widely distributed on the tropic and sub-tropics. It is usually found on marshes of brackish water around the coastal area. It is quite ramified, with roots appearing on the nodes of the branches, the leaves are relatively fleshy. The solitary flowers are white, but sometimes it can have a tinge of purple. This species is used in the Aryurvedic medicine;
  • The Rs. 13 stamp is a Mexican primerose-willow, commonly known ad “Herbes les Mares”, “Herbe Gandia” or “Herbe Josephine” in Mauritius. This species is probably native to all three islands of the Mascarenes and plants can be found on wet, marshes and along rivers or paths. Usually it is a small plant, but some old plants can exceptionally reach up to 4 m high. Its leaves are covered with small hairs. It is also considered as a medicinal plant in Mauritius;
  • The Rs. 16 and Rs. 31 stamps represent sacred lotus or Indian lotus. Originating from India, this plant is an aquatic perennial with large showy flowers. It is often considered to be water lilies. This lotus is considered to be a sacred plant by Hindus and Buddhists and associated with many divinities. It is edible and its stems, leaves and seeds can be eaten raw, cooked or as flour. Cultivars of different colours were introduced in Mauritius in the 18th Century. They can easily be seen at the SSR Botanical Garden, Pamplemousses.


The Philatelist’s Pick: Flora & Fauna of Mauritius – Part I: Endemic & indigenous plants

This next blog series will talk about the flora and fauna of Mauritius. Some of them are endemic, i.e. they are native to Mauritius and are exclusively found on the island, and nowhere else. Others are indigenous i.e. are native to Mauritius, but can also be found elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. Others have been introduced throughout the various colonial periods and by the botanists that lived or visited Mauritius. Parts I and II will relate to flowers and plants, while Parts III and IV will talk about birds and animals.

 This first blog is about endemic and indigenous flowers and plants. Currently, it is estimated that there are about 691 species of plants in Mauritius, of which about half of them (about 273) are endemic, which means they are unique to the island. About 150 other species are indigenous, that is, we shared them with other islands of the Mascarene Archipelago, namely Reunion and Rodrigues.

 Some historical facts…

 When Mauritius was discovered in the 17th century, it was covered by primitive forest, which was progressively destroyed for agricultural purposes (mainly to cultivate sugar cane, imported from Java by the Dutch) and to make place for human settlement.

 Today, native forests occupy less than 2 per cent of our total land area. These forests are found on mountain ridges, on the Offshore Islets and in Black River Gorges and Bras D’Eau National Parks. This is where the last habitats of our endemic flora and fauna are found. Despite being preserved by national parks, their ecosystem are still extremely fragile and are constantly under threat, notably by invasive species, such as Chinese guava (Psidium cattleianum) and the ravenale imported from Madagascar ((Ravenala madagascariensis).

Endemic and indigenous flowers of Mauritius

On 22 September 1977, the General Post Office released the first endemic flowers set, comprising of 4 postage stamps, namely:

  • A 20cs stamp, showing the “laine à crochet” or Hugonia Tomentaso, a woody endemic climber with beautiful hairy leaves. Its golden flowers appear usually in September/ October;
  • A Re. 1 stamp, illustrating the Bois Jasmin or Ochnacea, an endemic deciduous shrub which flowers copiously in December/ January. The white flowers, which usually appears before the leaves give a very attractive blossom to the forest of the plateau;
  • A Rs. 1.50 stamp, picturing the Dombeya (Dombeya Acutangula Sterculianceae), a very rare indigenous rather spreading shrub which gives a nice round shape. It has pink flowers in bifid cymes, which covers the plant completely, giving it a splendid colourful appearance;
  • A Rs. 5, showing the Boucle d’oreille (Trochetia Blackbumiana Sterulianceae), a low level endemic shrub, which grows on the plateau. It flowers rather profusely and in some varieties they may be straitions on the pink petals. The rather large pendulous flowers are bell shaped and look similar to earings, hence the common name “boucle d’oreille”. It is referred as the national flower of Mauritius

 1977 22 Sep - Flowers issue

The Trochetia, our national flower

 The Trochetia Boutoniana, also known as Boucle d’Oreille, was declared the national flower on the 12th March 1992, when Mauritius achieved the status of Republic. Named after the famous French botanist, Louis Bouton, this endemic plant is found in only one locality in the wild. On 18 June 2003, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued featuring the Trochetia, an endemic plant to the Mascarene consisting of 6 species, out of which 5 are found in Mauritius and 1 in Reunion. All species bear a single hermaphrodite white, pink or reddish flowers, which are either single or clustered bunch of three flowers. The four stamps feature each a variety of the Trochetia found on the island.

  • The Re. 1 depicts the Trochetia Boutoniana, a magnificent shrub with reddish orange flowers, found in the region of Brabant Mountain, and considered as critically endangered;
  • The Rs 4 stamp shows a Trochetia Uniflora, a well-branched shrub, which bears multiple dark pink, bell shape flowers. They can be found around Trois Mamelles mountain, Le Pouce and Letard mountain and is an endangered specie;
  • The Rs. 7 stamp features a Trochetia Triflora, grouped as white bell shaped flowers, in clusters of three; and
  • The Rs. 9 features a Trochetia Parviflora an endangered endemic shrub, bearing a pale pink bell shaped flower facing upward. It is now confined exclusively to Corps de Garde Mountain Nature reserve.

 2003 18 June - Trochetia FDC

A set of 4 postcards was also released. 

On 15 January 1981, another First Day Cover was issued, showing other endemic and indigenous species. It consists of a set of 4 postage stamps, namely:

  • A 25cs picturing a hibiscus (hibiscus liliflorus malvacea), a heterophyllous plant, which grows up in a bushy shrub of three to four metres tall with dark green shiny leaves. This plant was described by Cavanilles in 1789, who might have used the notes of Commerson from a specimen found in Réunion island. The colour of the flower is variable with a number of sub-species;
  • A Rs. 2 depicts the Bois Manioc (Erythrospermum monticolum flacourtiacea), one of the 4 varieties found in the Mascarene Islands. It is a small tree of our native forest, with a conspicuous flaky bark, which is reddish underneath. The tree may reach up to 30 centimetres in diameter and of four to five metres in height. The white flowers appear after the summer rains and produce smooth globose fruits;
  • A Rs. 2.50 representing Bois Corail (chasalia boryana rubiaceae), an endemic shrub of the widespread family rubiaceae. It is one of the most attractive of the half or so endemic species of Chasalia found on the plateau. The inflorescence is fairly conspicuous, looking like a coral growth. The fruits are of a beautiful mauve when ripe;
  • A Rs. 5 represents a hibiscus (hibiscus columnans malvaceae), a rare forest tree, which is now confined to the dry slope of the Western mountains. It is a very distinct species, which does not show much compatibility of hybridisation with other hibiscus species. 1981 15 Jan - Flowers' stamps OFC

Palm trees

 In 1984, a set of 5 postage stamps was released to illustrate Mauritius palm trees. There are about 2700 species worldwide, and Mascarene islands have a few endemic species. Mauritius counts 9 indigenous palm trees, of which 7 are endemic and 2 can also be found in Reunion Island. The set comprises the following 5 species:

  • A 25 cents stamp, showing the Blue Latan (Latania Loddigesii), or latanier de l’île ronde’, an endemic tree which grows to fifteen meters and has glaucous leaves, with a base covered with thick white wool.
  • A 50 cents stamp, showing a Hyophorbe Vaughanii, also native to Mauritius. It is almost extinct in the wild but grown for ornamental purposes as it displays orange flowering and red fruits on a trunk up to ten meters high;
  • A Rs. 2.50 stamp shows the Palmiste Bouclé (Tectiphiala Ferox), is a rarity. It grows only on Mauritius, at altitudes between 500 and 650 m, in humid and acid areas. It has such specific growing requirements that it probably is not found much outside of Mauritius. It grows to some two to nine meters (depending the source) and has long black spines that can be curled (hence the name, ‘frisé’ means curled).
  • A Rs. 5 stamp, picturing the Round Island Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe Langeliscaulis). This palm tress is better known because it is grown as ornamental in many countries worldwide. This ‘palmiste bouteille, palmiste gargoulette or bottle palm’ indeed develops a funny shaped trunk up to five meters which looks like a bottle, more or less round depending on the age of the plant. It also has intriguing twisted fronds (leaves). It comes from Round Island, which is off the shores of Mauritius and has been prized since a long time
  • A Rs 10 stamp, featuring a Hyophorbe Amariculis, an extremely rare palm tree, whose only remaining specimen can be found in the Curepipe Botanical garden.

 1984 23 July - Palms

The envelope cover shows a Palmiste Marron (Hyophorbe Verschaffeltii), which comes from Rodrigues Island where it grows at low elevations on calcareous soils. It also grows on Reunion, Mauritius and other places as ornamental. It has a grey trunk up to five or six meters with a strange shape as it gets thinner in the upper part just like if is was upside down.

In 2005, the Mauritius Post issued a set of four postage stamps in the “Nature” series o depict endemic fauna and flora of Round Island, a volcanic cone, and the second largest offshore islet of Mauritius. Round Island was classified as a nature reserve in 1957 and is administered by the National Parks and Conservation Services. 

Rs. 8 shows a hurricane Palm, a critically endangered plant, with only one surviving individual on the island. The island has 10 endemic palm species.

2005 18 MArch - Round Island


The hurricane palm is also featured on the Rs. 3 stamp issued in the “Fauna and Flora series of 30 August 2013.  It was first collected by Philibert Commerson around 1770. It is today the rarest palm in the world, which is difficult to reproduce in laboratories.

2013 30 Aug - Fauna and Flora

A wide variety of palm trees can be seen at the Pamplemousses Botanical garden, the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Famous for its long pond of giant water lilies (Victoria amazonica) shown on the Rs. 2 stamp, the garden was first constructed by Pierre Poivre (1719 – 1786) in 1770, and it covers an area of around 37 hectares. It has an amazing collection of 85 types of palm trees. Some of them form a long alley as can be seen on the 25 cents stamps. A FDC was released on 24 January 1980 with 5 postage stamps, illustrating various features of the Botanical Garden.

 1980 Pamplemousses FDC

Coconut trees, Agalega

It is believed that the coconut trees found on Agalega (an island situated 1000 km to the north of Mauritius) are native to the island. A set of 4 postafe stamps was issued on 5 December 2001, showing the different stages of production of coconut oil in Agalega. The set comprises of :

(i) Re. 1 stamp picturing the dehusking of coconuts by a worker, which consists of removing the nut from the fibrous enveloppe. This is done by means of a special heavy spear;

(ii) Rs. 5 shows the process of deshelling of coconuts;

(iii) Rs. 6 stamp showing employees looking after the drying of copra in the kiln. The coconut flesh is brought for dying. The latter contains 30 – 40% oil, while the dried one contains 60 – 70% oil;

(iv) Rs. 10 stamps, showing the machine used for oil extraction. The copra is crushed in a bronze pestle and the oil is pressed out through a filtering sieve. The solid residue (pounac) is used as livestock feeds.

The FDC illustrates the picking of coconuts.


 A set of 4 postage stamps was issued on 3 October 1986 on the theme Mauritius Orchids. Orchids are fascinating flowers with often curious shapes. This set comprises of:

  • A 25 cs stamps, showing the Cryptopus Elatus, an endemic plant to the Mascarene islands. In Mauritius it is found growing in full light on the plateau. It is one of the most beautiful orchid of the island and is the emblem of the Mauritius Orchid Society. The flower spice of about 20 – 25 cms carries up to 30 white flowers of about 4 – 5 cms long. It blooms between November and January;
  • A Rs. 2 stamp, which shows the Genus Jumellea, of which the greatest number of species is found in Madagascar. About 3 or 4 species are indigenous to Mauritius and they are found growing high up on trees in big clumps, in wet regions of the island. This orchid has strap-shaped dark green leaves of 12 cm long and 1 cm wide. The nice pure white fragrant flowers of about 3 cm across are of a very distinctive shape. The petals are more or less reflexed, the lateral sepals spreading and curved.
  • A Rs 2.50, showing the Angraecum Mauritianum. There are many species in Africa and in neighbouring islands, the most famous being the “comète de Madagascar”. Mauritius has a dozen of species. This pure white flower is star-shaped with 5 to 7 cm long spur. The flower turns to a creamy colour after a few days;
  • A Rs. 10 stamp, featuring the Bulbophyllum Longiflorum, an indigenous orchid, widely distributed in East Africa, Reunion, Madagascar, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea but very rare in Mauritius. The tawny flowers spotted with red are arranged in an umbrella-like inflorescence at the end of a fairly long stalk. The dorsal sepals of about 3cm long and petals of about 5 cm long end in a filament of about 2 – 3 cm. The plant blooms in January and February. 

 1986 Oct - Orchids 

In 2013, a set of 3 postage stamps on Fauna and Flora included a Rs. 10 stamp, showing a native orchid (oeniella polystachys), endemic to the Western Indian Ocean Islands. This bears white flowers of about 2 – 3 cm across, blooming for 1 month. The best population is found on Ile aux Aigrettes and Bras d’Eau. The special commemorative cover below was issued on 2015 for the 35th Anniversary of the Orchid Society of Mauritius. 

2015 25 Sep - 35th anniv Orchid Society

The Mauritius Post Ltd. issued a set of 12 Definitive Stamps on 9th April 2009 depicting beautiful indigenous flowers of Mauritius. They were issued in a set of three FDCs, each with 4 stamps.

The first FDC cover includes:

  • A Rs. 3 stamp featuring the Myonima Obovata, a small indigenous shrub of mid altitude dry forests, which bears nice clusters of small pinkish flowers. The beauty of this plant lies in its juvenile leaves, where a mosaic of red, purple, green venation under a thin waxy layer catches one’s attention;
  • A Rs. 6 stamp is an Elaeocarpus Bojeri, a small endemic tree now confined to only three individuals at Grand Bassin Peak, which bears long drooping inflorescence will bell-shaped whitish flowers.
  • A Rs. 7 stamp shows the Bremeria Landia, a small indigenous tree of upland humid forest bearing bright white flowers at its branch tips. This plant is used by local people for medicinal purposes against fever and as a tonic drink;
  • A Rs. 50, showing a Hibiscus Fragilis, a rare endemic shrub with rambling branches striving only on 2 mountains – Corps de Garde and Le Morne Brabant. It bears deep carmine striking flowers.

 2009 9 April - Indigenous flowers_3

The second FDC shows the four following indigenous flowers:

  • The Rs. 5 stamp shows a Crinum Mauritanium, an endemic lily plant discovered in the 1970s in the region of Midlands, and is now extremely rate. It bears beautiful while flowers all year round;
  • The Rs. 9 stamp pictures the Gaertnera Longifolia, an endemic short tree thriving in upland humid forests. It can easily be recognised by its long leaves and its terminal white inflorescence. It remains one of the rarest Gaertnera species on the island;
  • The Rs. 10 stamp features the Dombeya Acutangula, a rare indigenous flower plant found in the wild on a few mountain flanks. It is also one of the native flowering plants commonly planted in gardens and used in landscaping projects. It bears pink inflorescence;
  • The Rs. 25 stamp shows a Roussea Simplex, a rare endemic shrub now found in few places like Le Pouce, Grand Bassin, Bassin Blanc, Trou aux Cerf and Combo. Its orange yellow bell-shaped flowers are conspicuous and attractive. 


2009 9 April - Indigenous flowers_2

This third FDC features 4 plants, namely:

  • A Rs. 4. stamp shows the Cylindrocline Lorencei, a short endemic shrub with pinkish composite flowers confined to one region in the wild, Plaine Champagne;
  • The Rs. 8 stamp shows a Distephanus Populifolius, a rare endemic plant found only on dry exposed mountain tops, where it grows on rocky medium. It bears composite while and yellow flowers and its silvery leaves offer a perfect camouflage with its rocky surroundings.
  • A Rs. 15 stamp, which features the Aphloia Theiformis, an indigenous plant with various medicinal virtues, among which diuretic. It was also used extensively against malaria. It is quite common in upland humid forests and bears tiny white flowers at the base of the leaves;
  • A Rs. 22 stamp, picturing the Barleria Observatrix, an endemic shrub now confined to only Corps de Garde mountain. It bears nice small purple flowers, which are one of the most beautiful flowers of the island. 

2009 9 April - Indigenous flowers_1 

Other endemic plants

As part of the natural history series, a set of four stamps was issued on 10 March 1999 on the theme ‘endemic plants’. The set comprises of:

  • A Re. 1 stamp, showing a plant commonly known as bois cabri (of the verbenacae family – clerodendron laciniatum). It is a plant found in Rodrigues bearing leaves, which are different and with pink flowers;
  • A Rs. 2 stamp, which features a plant commonly known as bois chèvre, of the compositae family (senecio lamarckianus). It is a rare endemic shrub of Mauritius and grows on exposed cliffs. The tiny florets are yellow in colour;
  • A Rs. 5 is another rare endemic shrub of Mauritius, known as Cylindrocline Commersonii, also of the compositae family. It has thick leaves with woolly hairs;
  • A Rs. 9 stamp shows a psiadia pollicina, an endemic shrub of Mauritius, equally of the compositae family, mainly found on mountains.

 1999 10 March - Endemic plants

The envelope cover illustrates an endangered endemic shrub from Rodrigues, known as café marron (ramosmania rodriguesii).

Pignon d’inde

2014 28 March - Fauna and Flora2014 28 March - Bats postcard

On 28 March 2014, a set of 3 postage stamps was issued. The Rs. 25 stamp features the pignon d’Inde, a robust tropical plant, which can live beyond a year and is drought resistant. It originates from Central America. The leaves are pale green in colour of 3 to 5 lobes of phytotaxey spirals. The fruits have a pleasant taste, but can contain toxic properties due to the presence of albuminoidal called curcin. Ingestion can give rise to digestive problems. The leaves have curative properties against angina, hemorrhage, rheumatism, piles, malaria and distended bowels. The plant is used as a support to the vanilla tree. The post card cover depicts a fruit bat hanging on the pignon d’inde tree. 


In 2005, a series of four postage stamps on the fauna and flora on Round Island was released. The Rs. 25 showed a mazambron plant, an endemic plant classified as rare. It is traditionally used as a medicinal plant (see FDC above). 


Mangroves play an important role in the coastal eco system of Mauritius. Two species of mangroves, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza (L.) Lam., and Rhizophora muc ronata Lam., have been identified so far. The latter species is more dominant and occurs in pure stands in most of the swamps. In 1990, a series of 5 stamps was issued. The picture on the cover and the Rs. 1 stamp shows a mangrove tree.

1990 29 Nov - New Definitive Part II

Fern trees

The year 1989 was declared Year of the Environment in Mauritius. To mark this event, the Mauritius Postal Administration issued a set of 5 postage stamps on 11 March 1989. The set comprised 5 stamps, of which, a  Rs. 4 stamp, showing a fern tree. There are 2 species of indigenous tree ferns in Mauritius. These are Cyathea borbonica and Cyathea excelsa. In Mauritius, they are more commonly known as Fandia. The stem which is fibrous in nature is swollen at the base. It is an important component of the Mauritian native forest, which grows in the humid upland areas. The tree can reach a height of roughly 2 meters, with a dark, hairy, scaly trunk. Its spreading leaves are dark green fronds.

1988 1 Aug - New definitive Part I

Endemic trees of Mauritius

 Four postage stamps in the Natural History series were issued in 2001 to depict endemic trees of Mauritius. They consist of:

  • A Re. 1 stamp showing the Bois puant/ foetidia mauritiana. The tree derives its name from ‘bois puant’ because of the strong fetid smell of its oil;
  • A Rs. 3 stamp featuring the Bois d’Ebene/ Diospyros tessellaria is one of the twelve endemic species of ebony found in Mauritius. The bark is black and the wood is used to manufacture musical instruments and furniture;
  • A Rs. 5 stamp, illustrating the Mangliers de Hauts/ Sideroxylon puberulum, an endemic tree common in the forest of the Mauritius plateau. The wood is strong and rot-proof;
  • A Rs. 15 stamp showing the Bois d’éponge/ Gastonia mauritiana, another rare endemic tree which grows along the coastal regions.


2001 21 March - Trees of Mauritius

The envelope cover illustrates the Bois Gandine (Mathurina penduliflora) a threatened endemic tree from Rodrigues.