With its bloated bright white trunks, Moringa drouhardii is a conspicuous element of the southern Malagasy dry forest. It grows in scattered stands that can number hundreds of individuals, usually on limestone. I found many young trees in gaps in the dry forest in the southeast of the island. In cultivation, M. drouhardii grows extremely fast, surpassing three meters in its first year. This fast growth rate may permit it to exploit these gaps in the forest.
Like other moringas in other parts of the world, Moringa drouhardii is used medicinally. The gouges on the trunk of one of the trees shown below are where locals regularly remove the very strongly scented bark and wood for treatment of colds and coughs.
Moringa hildebrandtii is a beautiful tree with a massive, water-storing trunk that can grow to 20 meters tall. This bloated trunk makes Moringa hildebrandtii strongly resemble the more well-known but unrelated boabab trees (Adansonia) that also occur in Madagascar. The pinnately compound leaves can be up to a meter long, and the leaf rachis and stem tip of young plants is often a distinctive deep red. The small whitish flowers are borne in large sprays.
The first collection of Moringa hildebrandtii by western botanists was made in 1880, by Hildebrandt. He found it growing in the town of Trabonjy in northwestern Madagascar. Since then, other botanists have documented it growing in villages of the west coast, but no specimens have ever been collected from wild stands.
One of the main goals of my field work in Madagascar in early 1998 was to determine where Moringa hildebrandtii occurs in the wild. I worked with fellow Missouri Botanical Garden student Sylvain Razafimandimbison. We concluded that the tree no longer occurs in the wild. However, our assesment for the survival of Moringa hildebrandtii is good. It is frequently planted in villages all along the west coast of the island, and seeds abundantly. The trees are planted as ornamentals, for medicine, and to mark special occasions.
After M. oleifera, this is perhaps the most familiar species of Moringa, growing in such well-visited Namibian parks as Etosha and Namib-Naukluft. Its bloated white trunks standing out on otherwise bare hillsides have earned it the name "ghost tree".
The species is found from central Namibia to southwestern Angola, usually on very rocky ground. At the Sproukieswoud ("Fairy Forest") area of Etosha park, however, there is a rare stand of M. ovalifolia on soil.
Along with the other bottle trees in the genus and several others, the young leaves of M. ovalifolia are palmately compound.
1. and 2. Namib - Naukluft Park, Namibia.
3. and 4. Sproukieswoud, Etosha National Park, Namibia.
5. and 6. Moringa waterhole, Halali, Ethosha National Park, Namibia.
7. Fruits and seed
Most research on applied uses of Moringa other than M. oleifera focuses on this species. It is an important food plant in southwestern Ethiopia, where it is cultivated as a crop plant. There are fairly readily accessible populations of the plant on the island of Lake Baringo, in the Rift Valley in Kenya, and all material used in research probably comes from this area.
However, the distribution of the species through its range is very poorly known. After Lake Baringo, it is known from only four other localities, all around Lake Turkana, a huge lake that reaching hundreds of miles into Kenya from the Ethiopian border.
All moringas have nectaries at the bases of their leaves and leaflets. In In cultivation, M. stenopetala quickly produces a large gray trunk and leaves covered with glistening nectaries.