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  • Moringaceae Martinov

This family is accepted.


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

Trees with gummy bark
Leaves deciduous, alternate, 2–3 times pinnate, pinnae opposite; stipules none, or represented by stipitate glands at the base of the petioles and pinnae
Flowers in axillary panicles, white or red, hermaphrodite, zygomorphic
Calyx-tube short, with 5 unequal spreading or reflexed lobes, the fifth posticous, imbricate
Petals 5, the two upper smaller, the lateral ones ascending, the anticous larger
Disk lining the calyx-tube, with a short free margin
Stamens inserted on the margin of the disk, declinate, 5 perfect, alternating with the same number of antherless stamens or reduced to setae; filaments free; anthers dorsifixed, 1-celled, opening lengthwise by a slit
Ovary stipitate, terete, villous, curved, 1-celled, with 3 parietal placentas; style terminal, slender, tubular, truncate at the apex; ovules numerous, in 2 series on each placenta
Capsule long, beaked, 3–6-angled, torulose, 1-celled, 3-valved
Seeds 3-winged or not; embryo without endosperm, straight


Moringaceae, Bernard Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1986

Trees, sometimes with swollen trunks, shrubs or small woody subshrubs with tuberous rootstocks (often smelling and tasting of horseradish); wood often brittle and bark sometimes resinous or gummy
Leaves petiolate, alternate, deciduous or rachis of pinnae sometimes persistent, 1-3-imparipinnate; leaflets mainly opposite, entire; stipules and stipels absent or minute but sometimes with stipitate glands at the base of the petioles and pinnae
Flowers regular in 3 species and nearly so in two others but somewhat irregular in the rest, hermaphrodite, white, red or yellow, often numerous in axillary panicles, the floral parts borne on a cup-like or in one species tubular receptacle
Sepals 5, free above the receptacle, equal or unequal, imbricate in bud, the fifth posticous
Petals 5, equal or unequal, imbricate
Stamens inserted on the margin of the disk or epipetalous, declinate, 5 perfect ones alternating with 3-5 staminodes or setae; filaments free or partly united; anthers dorsifixed, 1-thecous, opening lengthwise by a slit, sometimes cohering; pollen grains trizonocolporate, with smooth exine
Ovary superior, stipitate, cylindrical, 1-locular of 3 carpels and with 3 parietal placentas; style terminal, slender, tubular with open canal, truncate at the apex and without stigmatic lobes; ovules numerous in 2 series on each placenta, pendulous, anatropous
Capsule elongate, beaked, 3-valved, 3-6-angled, sometimes torulose
Seeds unwinged or with 3 conspicuous wings, the wings hardened or membranous; embryo straight; endosperm absent


M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008]

Trees, shrubs, subshrubs or perennial herbs with tuberous rootstocks, often smelling of horse-radish
Leaves alternate, 1–3-imparipinnate; leaflets mainly opposite, entire; stipules and stipels absent or minute but sometimes with stipitate glands at base of petioles and pinnae
Flowers in axillary panicles, regular or somewhat irregular, bisexual
Sepals 5, imbricate in bud. Petals 5, imbricate
Stamens 5 fertile alternating with 3–5 staminodes; filaments free or partly united; anthers dorsifixed, 1-thecous
Ovary superior, cylindrical, 1-celled of 3 carpels; style terminal, slender, without stigmatic lobes; ovules numerous
Capsule elongate, 3-valved
Seeds often with 3 conspicuous wings; endosperm absent; embryo straight.
Family with a single genus native from Africa, Arabia e India.


Every, J.L.R. (2010). Neotropical Moringaceae.


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).

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Arid areas, recorded in the Caribbean, parts of Central America and Mexico.
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).
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.
General Description
Number of genera
  • One: Moringa Rheede ex Adans.(introduced).
  • No native genera.
General notes
  • M. oleifera Lamark is cultivated for its many uses especially as a high vitamin leaf crop.
Notes on delimitation
  • Currently placed within the Brassicales (APGIII).
Important literature

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.

Stevens, P.F. 2008. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9 onwards.

Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1992 onwards). The Families of Flowering Plants: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. Version 3rd March 2009.

Moringaceae Martinov appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Tekhno-Bot. Slovar 404. 1820 [3 Aug 1820] (1820)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016)


Flora of Somalia

  • Fl. Eth. Er. 2(1): 155–162 (2000).
  • Flora Somalia, Vol 1, (1993) Author: by M. Thulin [updated by M. Thulin 2008]
  • Fl. Trop. E. Afr. (1986)
  • Verdcourt in Kew Bull. 40: 1–23 (1985)
  • Cuf. Enum.: 162–163 (1954)

Flora of Somalia
Flora of Somalia

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa

Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.