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Today, Madagascar is an island, but several million years ago, it belonged to a so-called super continent. The name of this supercontinent was Gondwana. The gigantic continent had a large land mass, now spread over several continents and countries: Africa, Antarctica, Madagascar, Australia, New Guinea, South America, Arabia and India were among them. Then, more than 80 million years ago, Madagascar today separated from this supercontinent and is now separated. The evolution of Malagasy fauna and flora is now described as “isolated”. This means that external influences on this development have been minimal. This is exactly why many of Madagascar’s native plant species are now endemic. Endemic means that these plants are only naturally present on the red island of Madagascar and nowhere else in the world. Many plants from Madagascar are still unknown today. Many researchers therefore travel around the island every year in the hope of finding an unknown plant or perhaps an undiscovered animal species. Like plants, the majority of animal species living in Madagascar are endemic. Even during a vacation in Madagascar, they may encounter a plant that no human has ever seen before.

The diversity of flora in Madagascar

A simple glance at the figures is enough to determine the fascination of Madagascar’s flora: About 85 percent of all plants originating from Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world. There are more than 1,000 different species of orchids in Madagascar, with researchers assuming that the actual number of orchids native to Madagascar is actually much higher. The other specimens have simply not yet been discovered. For 350 years, researchers have been exploring and systematizing Madagascar’s fascinating flora. Especially at the beginning of these expeditions in the 17th century, many researchers were so fascinated and overwhelmed by the Malagasy fauna and flora that they often spoke of curiosities when they later described the wonders they experienced there. After all, no one had ever seen animals and plants from Madagascar from outside before.

Although the figures of many research institutes and environmental organizations speak of different sizes, it can be said with certainty that Madagascar has more than 12,000 different plant species and more than 4,000 endemic tree species. These trees and a multitude of plants living in Madagascar are not found on any other continent in the world. Baobabs, in particular, are a real highlight for nature lovers who want to spend their holidays in Madagascar. In total, there are only eight different species of these baobabs in the world – seven of them are native to Madagascar, six of them are even endemic. There is only one other type of monkey bread and it is native to Australia. In Madagascar, the euphorbia family includes about 700 different species, while the legume family has discovered 670 species to date. Madagascar’s palm trees are particularly interesting: they are all endemic and in total there are about 170. Who is interested in nature in Madagascar and who perhaps plans a trip to Madagascar, should not miss this almost unmanageable variety of the island’s flora.

Medicinal plants in Madagascar

The Malagasy plant world is also a source of knowledge for all those interested in medicine: many plants are regularly used in traditional Malagasy medicine. This is the case, for example, of aloe vera plants which, with their milky white juice, are often used to help relieve skin diseases. Many other plants in Madagascar are currently being examined by Western doctors and pharmaceutical companies to extract various active substances that could be useful against various diseases. However, research in this field is still in its infancy because the Malagasy plant world has not been discovered for so long and is not yet fully developed.

The threat to flora in Madagascar

Madagascar’s flora is so rich and partly as old as almost nowhere else in the world. Nevertheless, this abundance has been threatened for many years. Above all, the deforestation of the tropical forest has made the local ecosystem very difficult. Today, only about 20 percent of Madagascar is covered by the original primary forest. This corresponds to an area of approximately 120,000 square kilometres. The extraction of arable land and the clearing of trees for charcoal are the two most important causes of the decline of Madagascar’s vital forests. The overexploitation of so-called precious woods has also contributed to reducing the tree population in Madagascar. Although various efforts are currently being made to preserve the remaining rainforest in Madagascar, these measures are associated with considerable costs and efforts. Madagascar’s growing tourism can function in this respect as a possible source of money and thus also contribute to the preservation of this fantastic and unique plant world. If environmental protection in Madagascar is not intensified and extended in the coming years, many of the island’s unique plants could disappear. And this could mean that many species, which have not even been discovered yet, can never be systematized and catalogued. So if you are planning a holiday in Madagascar and perhaps want to spend your honeymoon in Madagascar, then you should definitely visit the island’s various nature reserves and national parks. You will find a unique range of plants and animals that you have never seen before. Take a look at the nature tours we offer in this context.