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The home page of the plant family Moringaceae

Moringa Home Page

Thanks for visiting the Moringa Home Page! It will introduce you to the remarkable range of vegetative and floral morphology in the family, which consists of only one genus, Moringa. This page will show you:

The Species of Moringa: Life Forms

The 13 species of Moringa fit into three broad categories that reflect life form and geography. The links below are arranged under these categories. To find out more about a species, click on its name to go to its page. For links to species pages arranged geographically, jump down to the maps.

Bottle trees

Massive trees with bloated water- storing trunks and small radially symmetrical flowers.

M. drouhardii; Madagascar
M. hildebrandtii; Madagascar
M. ovalifolia; Namibia and extreme SW Angola
M. stenopetala; Kenya and Ethiopia

Slender trees

Trees with a tuberous juvenile stage and cream to pink slightly bilaterally symmetrical flowers

M. concanensis; mostly India
M. oleifera; India
M. peregrina; Red Sea, Arabia, Horn of Africa

Trees, shrubs, and herbs of NE Africa

The eight Moringaspecies found in northeast Africa span the whole range of life form variation found in Moringa. All but M. peregrina are endemic to northeast Africa, that is, found nowhere else on earth. These species are tuberous adults or tuberous juveniles maturing to fleshy-rooted adults; colorful, bilaterally symmetrical flowers

M. arborea; NE Kenya
M. borziana; Kenya and Somalia
M. longituba; Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia
M. pygmaea; N Somalia
M. rivae; Kenya and Ethiopia
M. ruspoliana; Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia

The Species of Moringa: Geography

The first map shows Africa, Madagascar, and parts of Asia, including Arabia and India. Countries in which Moringa occurs are shaded in color. The lightest shadings indicate that only one species of Moringa is found in that country, while darker colors denote countries with two, four, or five species. Moringa species almost always grow in stands, only rarely occurring singly, and no species have been found to occur sympatrically (to grow together in the same habitat at the same spot).

Arabia and India: 3 slender trees
The three species that occur in the Red Sea area, Arabia, and the Indian subcontinent are all slender trees. This group includes the family's best-known and most economically valuable species, M. oleifera. Now cultivated in all the countries of the tropics, M. oleifera seems to be native to subhimalayan India. M. concanensis is mainly from India and Pakistan, barely reaching into Bangladesh. M. peregrina has the widest range of all, growing from the Dead Sea area sporadically along the Red Sea coasts to northern Somalia and around the Arabian Peninsula to the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Southern Hemisphere: 3 bottle trees
The three species restricted to the southern hemisphere are all bottle trees. Namibia and Angola in southwestern Africa are home to M. ovalifolia, while M. drouhardiiand M. hildebrandtii are endemic to Madagascar.

Moringa diversity is highest in the Horn of Africa
With nine species,the Horn of Africa is the center of Moringa diversity and include a variety of life forms. Eight of the species found here are endemic (occur nowhere else). M. peregrina is found in northern Somalia, Arabia, and the Red Sea coasts north to the Dead Sea.

Horn of Africa map legend
Red x's M. peregrina
Yellow dots M. pygmaea
Gray dots M. longtituba
Pink dots M. ruspoliana
Green dots M. rivae
Blue circles M. borziana
Red dots M. stenopetala
Turquoise dot M. arborea

Our patchy understanding of Moringa distribution in the Horn of Africa highlights how little-studied the dry lowlands of this area are. Two species, M. pygmaea and M. arborea, have only been seen twice each. M. stenopetala is widely cultivated but only known from five localities in the wild. M. ruspoliana has been collected by botanists less than 20 times since its discovery in the late 1800s. The full distribution and range of variation of M. rivae is still very murky, and the type locality of M. borziana hasn't been visited since the discovery of the species in the early 1900s. Even the relatively familiar species M. longituba is full of puzzles in its variation, distribution, and seasonal activity. The lack of documented Moringa localities in the extreme eastern point of Ethiopia is almost certainly due to a lack of exploration of the area, rather than a lack of Moringa.

The densest concentration of Moringa species is in Mandera District, in the extreme northeast of Kenya, where M. arborea, M. longituba, M. rivae, and M. ruspoliana can be found, though the species do not grow intermingled with one another.

Moringa is apparently absent from Socotra, the large island off the Horn of Africa.

Please get in touch! molson@ibiologia.unam.mx
©1999 Mark E Olson