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This small family has only one genus (Moringa), native to semi-arid Africa and dry monsoonal areas of Asia. One species (M. citrifolia) is often cultivated around settlements in northern Australia, and occasionally naturalises.

Characteristic features of the family Moringaceae in Australia include:

  • dry-season deciduous tree with alternate, pinnate leaves often with glands at the base of the petiole and pinnae
  • flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, with a cup-shaped hypanthium and 5 free sepals and petals
  • anthers 5, alternating with staminodes and inserted around the margin of a prominent nectary-disc
  • ovary superior, shortly stalked, developing into an elongate, woody pod which opens explosively to release the 3-winged seeds


Evergreen trees, rarely shrubs. Stem internodes spongy or pithy. Internal secretions of resin. Plants glabrous. Leaves alternate and spiral, petiolate; pulvinae present. Stipules absent, or present and distinct and free from the petiole, gland-like, persistent; stipellae present. Lamina tricompound, paripinnate, symmetric; leaflets lanceolate, ovate, oblanceolate, obovate or oblong; base cuneate or rounded; margins entire, ±flat; venation pinnate, with the midrib conspicuous, and the tertiary venation not reticulate; surfaces not punctate; herbaceous; distinctive odour ?aromatic or ?foetid. All the flowers bisexual. Inflorescences axillary, consisting of panicles. Bracts present or absent. Flowers fragrant; stalked. Floral disc present; nectaries present on the disc. Free hypanthium ±present. Perianth irregular, of 2 similar whorls, with 10, free, petaloid segments, imbricate in bud, 1-lipped, white or yellow, without contrasting markings, membranous; lobes ±entire. Fertile stamens 5, alternating with the outer perianth segments, free of the perianth, free of the ovary and style, distinct from each other, all ±equal. Staminodes present. Anthers dorsifixed, not versatile, opening ?inwards by longitudinal slits, 1-celled. Ovary superior and sessile. Carpels (2) 3 (4), fused; ovary with 1 locule. Style terminal, single and unbranched with the stigma truncate. Ovules 1012 or more, stalked; placentation parietal. Fruit a dry dehiscent septicidal capsule with explosive dehiscence; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous. Disseminule macro-surface winged; micro-surface ±smooth, white or brown, dull. Seeds 1012 per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Moringaceae has been published in:
Flora of Australia 8: 358.

Australian genera of Moringaceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)

* = all species introduced


Moringa citrifolia (fruits)
Photo: G.Wightman G.Wightman