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Moringa ruspoliana Engler

One of the most morphologically divergent species in the family, M. ruspoliana occurs from northern Somalia to southeastern Ethiopia, barely reaching into northeastern Kenya.

It is easily distinguished from all the other species in the family. It is the only species having simply pinnate leaves. The leaflets are the largest in the family, reaching 15 cm in diameter, and are the thickest and toughest leaflets in the family.

M. ruspoliana also stands out for having the largest flowers in the family, reaching 3 cm long. The flowers are pink with green bases and when in flower, the tree looks very much like an Erythrina.

When young, M. ruspoliana forms a thick taproot. As the plant ages, the root swells and becomes more globose. It begins to send out thick side roots, usually four. The adult plant is a small tree to 6 meters tall with an octopus-like system of long, fleshy roots.

1. 2. 3. 4.

1. Habit of tree planted in Rhamu, Kenya, in 1974; 2. Heavily pollarded tree with exposed roots in Rhamu District, Kenya; 3. M. ruspoliana growing near the point where Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia meet; 4. Leaflet

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©1999 Mark E Olson