Jon L.R. Every
University of Plymouth, U.K.
Woody, deciduous trees; rootstocks tuberous. Leaves alternate, compound, 3-pinnate; leaflets entire in 4-6 pairs, ovate, elliptic, or oblong, glabrous at maturity; stipules glandular at base of petiole and leaflets. Inflorescence axillary panicles, bracteate. Flowers bisexual; sepals 5, lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, usually puberulent; petals 5, free, spatulate; stamens 5, free from and opposite corolla members, hairy at base, staminodes 5 alternating with stamens, filaments encircling disk, anthers dorsifixed, dehiscing via full-length slits; ovary superior, syncarpous, hairy, gynophore present, carpels 3, locule 1, ovules numerous, style 1, hollow, stigma minute. Fruit a capsule, woody, 3-valved. Seeds numerous, 3-angled, wings 0.5-1 cm wide (rarely absent).
Notes on delimitation
- Currently placed within the Brassicales (APGIII).
Distribution in the Neotropics
- Arid areas, recorded in the Caribbean, parts of Central America and Mexico.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
- Spiral, deciduous, compound, 3-pinnate leaves.
- Conspicuous glands often secreting clear or amber liquid at the petiole and leaflet bases.
- Widely-spreading, paniculate inflorescence, 10-30cm long.
- Linear bracts ca. 1mm.
- Three-angled, capsular fruits.
Other important characters
- Leaflets in 4 - 6 pairs, puberulous when young and glabrous at maturity.
- Sepals usually puberulent.
- Seeds often winged.
Key differences from similar families
- Can be distinguished from the Papilionoideae of the Leguminosae which have (9-)10(-many) stamens.
- The flowers of Moringa resemble 'inverted' pea flowers with 2 dorsal sepals and 1 dorsal petal usually remaining unreflexed and forming a projecting "keel", while the rest of the perianth reflexes down to form a "banner" at right angles to the "keel" (Lianli & Olson 2001).
Number of genera
- One: Moringa Rheede ex Adans.(introduced).
- No native genera.
- M. oleifera Lamark is cultivated for its many uses especially as a high vitamin leaf crop.
APG III. 2009. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161(3): 105-121.
Culham, A.C. 2007. Moringaceae. In: V.H. Heywood, R.K. Brummitt, A. Culham and O. Seberg (eds.). Flowering Plant Families of the World. Pp 173-174. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Lianli, L., and M.E. Olson. 2001. Moringaceae. In: Raven, P.H., I. Al-Shehbaz, and G. Zhu, (eds.). Flora of China vol. 8: 196. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.
Mabberley, D.J. 2008. Mabberley's plant book. Third edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1992 onwards). The Families of Flowering Plants: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. Version 3rd March 2009. http://delta-intkey.com
How to cite
Every, J.L.R. (2010). Neotropical Moringaceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics. http://www.kew.org/science/tropamerica/neotropikey/families/Moringaceae.htm.