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Moringa arborea Verdcourt

This species was discovered by Allan Radcliffe-Smith and Peter Bally in 1972. They found a single tree growing in a rocky canyon in northeastern Kenya near the Ethiopian border. The tree was in flower and fruit but was leafless, so the leaves have been a mystery since no one went back to the area for over 30 years.

In 1998, I revisited the type locality to look for M. arborea. In the same canyon, I found almost a dozen individuals, and locals informed me that the tree was more widespread. But the trees were leafless when I saw them, too. I collected many cuttings and two small plants. All the cuttings and one small plant remained with the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and I the other small plant back to Missouri. Now, we have an idea of what the leaves look like!

Moringa arborea is a very beautiful tree, especially  when covered with its large sprays of pale pink and wine red flowers. The young fruits, which resemble a yard-long string bean, are being eagerly awaited on plants being cultivated at KEFRI to be tested for their suitability as a vegetable for arid climates.

Locals use the tree, like other species of Moringa, for medicine, especially the roots, which are thick and fleshy and pungent smelling.

1.  2. 3. 

1. habit; 2. Very happy search party celebrating rediscovery of Moringa arborea; 3. habit

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