Pistacia lentiscus is the scientific name of the frequently encountered Mastic or Lentisk Tree (Maltese: Deru). We find this tree growing as an ornamental plant in our gardens, although this shrub is one of the plants typical of our local maquis; a vegetation formation characterised by small trees and shrubs.
The Mastic tree is an attractive aromatic evergreen tree, capable of growing to around 5 metres in height. The resinous bark bears long and rather twisted branches. Its leathery dark green leaves are appealing; they are composed of three or five pairs of leaflets arranged along a common purplish-red stalk. The tree is dioecious, meaning that a single tree may only be male or female. The flowers are small and arranged in a rather dense spike-like inflorescence, the male flowers having bright red anthers whilst the female flowers being greenish-brown. Following pollination, a small roundish red berry is formed, which becomes black when ripe.
The resin obtained from the bark of the Mastic tree is utilised for a variety of purposes, such as varnish-making, medicine and to flavour spirits or liquors.
The Mastic Tree is considered to be a strictly protected tree under national legislation and one should not prune, fell or uproot this tree without previously obtaining the necessary permits from the Competent Authorities.
Importantly, through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation MEPA is helping to protect a number of important areas of maquis and the typical species it supports.