• Santalum yasi

Yasi is a small shrub or tree that grows up to 8-10 m in height.
Also known as: Sandalwood
Local Names: Yasi, Yasi dina

Description

Yasi is a small shrub or tree that grows up to 8-10 m in height. Members of this species growing in open habitat, have a crooked bole and spreading crown, whilst those that grow in the forest and sheltered areas have a straight bole for more than half the total length. The flowers are small and bell-shaped. Buds and newly opened flowers are cream coloured, and then turn to light pink through pink to dark red when they mature. The leaves are light to dark green in colour, narrow to broadly lanceolate in shape and are arranged opposite to each other along the stem.

Distribution

This species occurs in the lowland, drier, more open forest types of Fiji, Niue and Tonga.

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

Yasi is found mainly in open forest types and even in secondary forests. This plant is root-parasitic, meaning that they have special root extensions that capture nutrients from roots of other plants in the soil; and therefore need to grow with other trees. They are dependent on their host plant for nutrients. In Fiji, yasi bears flowers between the months of October- November and February. The fruiting season corresponds with the wet season from January to March. Yasi has a slow growth rate in its early stages, growing at 0.5 ‚Äď 0.7 m per year. However, growth rate is variable, and is dependent upon the environmental conditions and host species.

Threats

While yasi has economic potential, their populations in the wild are depleted, and need to be regenerated. The main threats to the wild populations are over harvesting, and lack of appropriate host plants for regeneration.

Conservation Status

The yasi trade has been ongoing in Fiji since the 1700s, when Europeans first began trading with Fijians. It was during this trade that the wild yasi populations were almost driven to extinction, which ended the trade. Since 1996, the Forestry department in Fiji, with assistance from the AUS-Aid funded SPRIG (South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources) program, have been conducting conservation programs and developed techniques on methods of growing yasi to re-establish their populations,  and have been supplying seedlings to communities interested in growing and selling yasi as a source of income.

In early 2008, the villagers of Onoilau planted seedlings of yasi on their island as part of their terrestrial ecosystem restoration project.

Remarks and Cultural Significance

The yasi trade has been ongoing in Fiji since the 1700s, when Europeans first began trading with Fijians. It was during this trade that the wild yasi populations were almost driven to extinction, which ended the trade. Since 1996, the Forestry department in Fiji, with assistance from the AUS-Aid funded SPRIG (South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources) program, have been conducting conservation programs and developed techniques on methods of growing yasi to re-establish their populations,  and have been supplying seedlings to communities interested in growing and selling yasi as a source of income.

In early 2008, the villagers of Onoilau planted seedlings of yasi on their island as part of their terrestrial ecosystem restoration project.

References

Thomson (2003), (2006)

Front Page Photo: Timoci Koliyavu: a yasi plant grown in a pot plant with its host species at the Department of Forestry nursery at Colo-i-suva.
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