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There are around 14 species of Monodora (meaning one gift, alluding to its solitary fruit) in tropical Africa. Monodora myristica is a large deciduous tree (up to 35 m) and has a wide canopy of green leaves and stunning flowers.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Calabash nutmeg is a large tropical tree with huge leaves and exotic, scented flowers that hang down on cord-like twigs.

There are around 14 species of Monodora (meaning one gift, alluding to its solitary fruit) in tropical Africa. Monodora myristica is a large deciduous tree (up to 35 m) and has a wide canopy of green leaves and stunning flowers.

In the wild, this species is pollinated by beetles and produces large fruits filled with pulp and aromatic, brown seeds. The seeds are used in Africa as a substitute for nutmeg, hence the name calabash nutmeg. Monodora myristica was introduced to the Caribbean in the 18th century and is known there as Jamaican nutmeg.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Monodora myristica is native to tropical West Africa and further east to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. It is introduced to Jamaica, other parts of the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Description

Calabash nutmeg forms a large branching tree with a grey-barked trunk and can reach 35 m high in nature. It has large leaves (35 cm long and 18 cm wide) at the end of its branches. The leaves are purple at first but turn a smooth deep green on the upper side with paler green underneath. They are prominently veined and the petiole (leaf stem) is purplish.

The scented, waxy flowers are suspended on long stalks and have three calyx lobes (parts that remain free in a fused calyx) and three petals arranged in two whorls (circular attachment of sepals and petals at a single point). The yellowish calyx lobes, frilled at the edges, are splashed with red. The petals are paler with purplish red spots. The flowers are followed by large woody fruits filled with brown seeds embedded in aromatic pulp.

Describing and naming the calabash nutmeg

Writing in Curtis's Botanical Magazine in 1831, W.J. Hooker noted that: 'We are much indebted to Dr. Bancroft of Jamaica for a drawing, and specimens both dried and in spirits, and for an accurate description of this rare and little-known plant. The fruit alone was described by Gaertner, under the name of Anona myristica , from Sir Joseph Banks's Museum.' Edward Nathaniel Bancroft (1772-1842) was an English physician who was appointed as a doctor in the army and served abroad for many years, latterly in Jamaica where he remained until his death. He was particularly interested in yellow fever, malaria and other tropical diseases. It was Michel Félix Dunal (1789-1856), Professor of Medicine and Botany and Director of the Jardin des Plantes at Montpellier, who gave the tree its present name in 1817.

Uses

The seeds are the most economically important part of this tree. They are widely used in West Africa as a substitute for nutmeg in soups, stews and cakes. In traditional medicine, the seeds are used as a stimulant, stomachic and treatment for headaches. They are also used as rosary beads and are considered by some to have magical properties. The timber is easy to work and used for carpentry, turnery and walking sticks. Monodora myristica is cultivated as an ornamental.

Calabash nutmeg a 'difficult' seed?

The seeds of Monodora myristica are being investigated as part of Kew's 'Difficult' seeds project. The seeds of this species may become dormant and to overcome this seeds may need to experience several 'seasons' to allow the embryo to grow and develop before germination will occur.

Cultivation

Propagation of Monodora myristica is by seeds, suckers or layers.

This species at Kew

Monodora myristica can be found in the Palm House.

Pressed and dried, and alcohol-preserved specimens of Monodora myristica are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these specimens, including images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Kew's Economic Botany Collection includes samples of wood, fruits and seeds of Monodora myristica , which are available to researchers from around the world by appointment.

Distribution
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda
Ecology
Evergreen rainforest, deciduous forest, lowland river banks.
Conservation
Not Evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

None known.

[FTEA]

Annonaceae, B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1971

Morphology General Habit
Tree or shrub 3.6–30 m. tall, with trunk up to 1 m. in diameter, fissured at the base; bark grey, vertically corrugated with rounded ridges; branchlets glabrous.
Morphology Leaves
Leaf-blades obovate-elliptic, obovate-oblong or elliptic, 5.5–60 cm. long, 2.5–20 cm. wide, shortly acuminate at the apex, rounded or cordate at the base, thin to coriaceous, glabrous, glaucous with a purplish bloom on the upper surface and often glaucous beneath; midrib often red beneath; lateral nerves 10–23, prominent on both surfaces; venation reticulate, prominent; petiole channelled, 0.5–1.5 cm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers solitary, extra-axillary or rarely axillary, hanging, fragrant; pedicels (modified branches fide Dale & Eggeling) 5–25 cm. long, glabrous, at first reddish-white, then yellowish; bracteoles green, ovate-lanceolate or broadly ovate, 1.8–4 cm. long, 0.9–3.7 cm. wide, acuminate at the apex, attenuate and subcordate at the base, glabrous or sometimes ciliate at the margins.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals green or reddish or green with reddish spots, oblong-lanceolate, 2–3.5 cm. long, 0.5–1 cm. wide,obtuse, the margins reflexed, crispate-undulate, glabrous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Outer petals white, yellow or greenish-yellow spotted with dark red or carmine, ovate-lanceolate, 4–10.5 cm. long, 2.5–3 cm. wide, attenuate at the apex, spreading at the base, curved, with crispate undulate margins, glabrous; inner petals white, greenish-white or cream with dark red, purplish-brown or carmine spots, broadly ovate, 3–5 cm. long, 2.5–3 cm. wide, attenuated at the apex, subcordate or auriculate at the base, subsessile or with claw 3–8 mm. long, margins and auricles with pale ferruginous hairs, sometimes lightly adhering at the tips to form a cone.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens subglobose, 0.5 mm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary conical, 3–4 mm. long, glabrous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruiting pedicels up to 25(–60) cm. long, 1–3.5 cm. thick; fruit green then blackish-brown, globose, 10–22.5(–30 fide Machin) cm. in diameter, or ovoid, 14–22.5 cm. long, 10–15 cm. wide, longitudinally striate-rugose, glabrous, the pericarp thick and woody.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds brown, ovoid, ellipsoid or oblong-ellipsoid, (1.2–)2–3 cm. long, 0.8–1.5 cm. wide, 6–10 mm. thick, rugose, embedded in a fragrant pulp.
Habitat
Evergreen forest, often of riverine or lakeside fringing type; 1140–1800 m.
Distribution
W. Africa to Angola including S. Tomé, Principe and Fernando Po, Central African Republic and Congoalso cultivated elsewhere, e.g. Gabon, Jamaica, Java (Bogor) and as a curiosity in England K5 T1 U2 U3 U4

[FWTA]

Annonaceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:1. 1954

Morphology General Habit
A tree, up to 60 ft. with large fragrant flowers
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx red-spotted
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals yellow and red, the three inner spotted red outside and green inside
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit spherical, green.

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, culinary, medicinal, timber.

Native to:

Angola, Benin, Cabinda, Cameroon, Central African Repu, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zaïre

Introduced into:

Trinidad-Tobago

English
Calabash nutmeg

Monodora myristica (Gaertn.) Dunal appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jun 1, 2001 Cable, S. [1215], Cameroon K000108043
Jun 1, 2001 Cheek, M. [7519], Cameroon K000108052
Jun 1, 2001 Etuge, M. [1576], Cameroon K000108040
Jun 1, 2001 Cheek, M. [10357], Cameroon K000108051
Jun 1, 2001 Etuge, M. [2017], Cameroon K000108050
Jun 1, 2001 Etuge, M. [2516], Cameroon K000108042
Jun 1, 2001 Cable, S. [2789], Cameroon K000108048
Jun 1, 2001 Cable, S. [3507], Cameroon K000108041
Jun 1, 2001 Cable, S. [653], Cameroon K000108044
Jun 1, 2001 Ghogue, J.-P. [494], Cameroon K000108049
Jun 1, 2001 Cheek, M. [10228], Cameroon K000108046
Jun 1, 2001 Cable, S. [3285], Cameroon K000108047
Jun 1, 2001 Etuge, M. [1497], Cameroon K000108045
Mar 1, 1997 Cable, S. [2544], Cameroon K000008130
Jan 1, 1958 Keay, R.W.J. [37410], Cameroon K000105567
Jan 1, 1958 Keay, R.W.J. [37410], Cameroon K000105568
Forman, L.L. [71] 14654.000
Onochie, C.F.A. [9105], Nigeria 17622.000
Drummond, R.B. [4717], Uganda 22676.000
Keay, R.W.G. [37410], Cameroon 28116.000
Styles, B.T. [211], Uganda 7373.000
Mann, G. [27], Cameroon K000105566 isotype
Mann, G. [27], Cameroon K000105565 isotype
Mann, G. [27], Cameroon K000105564 holotype
s.coll. [s.n.] K000880418 Unknown type material
Preuss, P.R. [1303a], Cameroon K000105562
Prenner, G. [58], Cameroon 76498.000
Staudt, A. [583], Cameroon K000105563
s.coll. [s.n.] K000880419

First published in Monogr. Anonac.: 80 (1817)

Accepted by

  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006). Flore Analytique du Bénin: 1-1034. Backhuys Publishers.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Berendsohn, W.G., Gruber, A.K. & Monterrosa Salomón, J. (2009). Nova silva cusatlantica. Árboles nativos e introduciados de El Salvador. Parte 1: Angiospermae - Familias A a L Englera 29-1: 1-438.
  • Boulvert, Y. (1977). Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 1: 1-114. ORSTROM, Bangui.
  • Catarino, L., Sampaio Martins, E., Pinto-Basto, M.F. & Diniz, M.A. (2006). Plantas Vasculares e Briófitos da Guiné-Bissau: 1-298. Instituto de investigação científica tropical, Instituto Português de apoio ao desenvolvimento.
  • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Figueiredo, E. & Smith, G.F. (2008). Plants of Angola Strelitzia 22: 1-279. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Fischer, E., Rembold, K., Althof, A. & Obholzer, J. (2010). Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Kakamega forest, Western province, Kenya Journal of East African Natural History 99: 129-226.
  • Hutchinson, J., Dalziel, J.M. & Keay, R.W.J. (1954-1958). Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 1: 1-828.
  • Kalema, J. & Beentje, H. (2012). Conservation checklist of the trees of Uganda: 1-235. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lejoy, J., Ndjele, M.-B. & Geerinck, D. (2010). Catalogue-flore des plantes vasculaires des districts de Kisangani et de la Tshopo (RD Congo) Taxonomania 30: 1-307.
  • Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008). Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas: 1-1576. SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
  • Robyns, W. & al. (eds.) (1948-1963). Flore du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi 1-10.
  • Sita, P. & Moutsambote, J.-M. (2005). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Congo, ed. sept. 2005: 1-158. ORSTOM, Centre de Brazzaville.
  • Verdcourt, B. (1971). Flora of Tropical East Africa, Annonaceae: 1-131.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Barwick, M. (2004). Tropical and Subtropical Trees: a Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Brummitt, R.K. & Powell, C.E. (1996). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Burkill, H.M. (1985). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa. Edition 2. Vol. 1. Families A-D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Hooker, W.J. (1831). Monodora myristica. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 58: t. 3059.
  • Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. Third edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • The Plant List (2010). Monodora myristica.

Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • Chev. Bot. 11.
  • —F.T.A. 1: 37

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006). Flore Analytique du Bénin: 1-1034. Backhuys Publishers.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Catarino, L., Sampaio Martins, E., Pinto-Basto, M.F. & Diniz, M.A. (2006). Plantas Vasculares e Briófitos da Guiné-Bissau: 1-298. Instituto de investigação científica tropical, Instituto Português de apoio ao desenvolvimento.
  • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Figueiredo, E. & Smith, G.F. (2008). Plants of Angola Strelitzia 22: 1-279. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Fischer, E., Rembold, K., Althof, A. & Obholzer, J. (2010). Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Kakamega forest, Western province, Kenya Journal of East African Natural History 99: 129-226.
  • Lejoy, J., Ndjele, M.-B. & Geerinck, D. (2010). Catalogue-flore des plantes vasculaires des districts de Kisangani et de la Tshopo (RD Congo) Taxonomania 30: 1-307.
  • Verdcourt, B. (1971). Flora of Tropical East Africa, Annonaceae: 1-131.

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Boutique in Flore du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, 2: 268 (1951).
  • Dale & Greenway, Kenya Trees and Shrubs p. 36 (1961).
  • Dunal, Mon. Anon.: 80 (1817).
  • Engl. & Diels in Monographieen Afrikanischer Pflanzen-Familien und Gattungen 6: 86, t. 30/A (1901).
  • Keay, Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 1: 54 (1954).
  • Le Thomas in Fl. Gabon 16, Annonacées: 342, t. 63 (1969).
  • Paiva in Mem. Soc. Brot. 19: 122 (1966).
  • R. E. Fries in A. Engler & K. Prantl, Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien, ed. 2, 17a (2): 168 (1959).
  • W.J. Eggeling, Indigenous Trees of the Uganda Protectorate, ed. 2: 19 (1952).

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
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Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa
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Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
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Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
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Kew Species Profiles
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