Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Morinda citrifolia
(Indian mulberry)

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Datasheet

Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 18 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Morinda citrifolia
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Indian mulberry
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. citrifolia is a shrub or small tree that in recent years has attained significant economic importance worldwide due to the great variety of health and cosmetic products made from its leaves and fruits. Conse...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); habit. Waianapanapa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
TitleHabit
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); habit. Waianapanapa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); habit. Waianapanapa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
HabitMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); habit. Waianapanapa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); habit. LaPerouse, Maui, Hawaii, USA. December 2004.
TitleHabit
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); habit. LaPerouse, Maui, Hawaii, USA. December 2004.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2004 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); habit. LaPerouse, Maui, Hawaii, USA. December 2004.
HabitMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); habit. LaPerouse, Maui, Hawaii, USA. December 2004.©Forest & Kim Starr-2004 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); branches and foliage. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
TitleBranches and foliage
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); branches and foliage. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); branches and foliage. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
Branches and foliageMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); branches and foliage. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); leaves and flowers. Hoolawa Farms, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
TitleLeaves
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); leaves and flowers. Hoolawa Farms, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr- 2006 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); leaves and flowers. Hoolawa Farms, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
LeavesMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); leaves and flowers. Hoolawa Farms, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr- 2006 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); fruiting habit. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
TitleFruiting habit.
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); fruiting habit. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2016 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); fruiting habit. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
Fruiting habit.Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); fruiting habit. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.©Forest & Kim Starr-2016 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers, fruits and foliage. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
TitleFlowers, fruits and foliage
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers, fruits and foliage. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2016 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers, fruits and foliage. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
Flowers, fruits and foliageMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers, fruits and foliage. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.©Forest & Kim Starr-2016 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers and unripe fruit. Waianapanapa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
TitleFlowers and fruit
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers and unripe fruit. Waianapanapa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers and unripe fruit. Waianapanapa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
Flowers and fruitMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers and unripe fruit. Waianapanapa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers and ripening fruit. LaPerouse, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2004.
TitleFlowers and fruit
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers and ripening fruit. LaPerouse, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2004.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2004 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers and ripening fruit. LaPerouse, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2004.
Flowers and fruitMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers and ripening fruit. LaPerouse, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2004.©Forest & Kim Starr-2004 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
TitleFlowers
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2016 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.
FlowersMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); flowers. Waihee Coastal Preserve, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2016.©Forest & Kim Starr-2016 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); ripe fruit, showing seed and pulp. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
TitleRipe fruit
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); ripe fruit, showing seed and pulp. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); ripe fruit, showing seed and pulp. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
Ripe fruitMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); ripe fruit, showing seed and pulp. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); seeds and pulp. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
TitleSeeds and pulp
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); seeds and pulp. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); seeds and pulp. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.
Seeds and pulpMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); seeds and pulp. Waianapanapa State Park Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2007.©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); in pots, for sale. Hoolawa Farms, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
TitlePotted plants
CaptionMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); in pots, for sale. Hoolawa Farms, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); in pots, for sale. Hoolawa Farms, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
Potted plantsMorinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry); in pots, for sale. Hoolawa Farms, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Morinda citrifolia L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Indian mulberry

Other Scientific Names

  • Belicea hoffimannioides Lundell
  • Morinda aspera Wight & Arn.
  • Morinda asperula Standl.
  • Morinda bracteata Roxb.
  • Morinda chachuca Buch.-Ham.
  • Morinda elliptica (Hook.f.) Ridl.
  • Morinda ligulata Blanco
  • Morinda litoralis Blanco
  • Morinda macrophylla Desf.
  • Morinda mudia Buch.-Ham.
  • Morinda multiflora Roxb.
  • Morinda nodosa Buch.-Ham.
  • Morinda quadrangularis G.Don
  • Morinda stenophylla Spreng.
  • Morinda teysmanniana Miq.
  • Morinda tomentosa B.Heyne ex Roth
  • Morinda zollingeriana Miq.
  • Platanocephalus orientalis Crantz
  • Samama citrifolia (L.) Kuntze
  • Sarcocephalus leichhardtii F.Muell.

International Common Names

  • English: canary-wood; cheesefruit; great morinda
  • Spanish: mora de la India; morinda; noni; ruibarbo Caribe (Mexico)
  • French: bois douleur ; morinde
  • Chinese: hai bin mu ba ji

Local Common Names

  • Australia: canary wood ; rotten cheesefruit
  • Brazil: pau-azeitona
  • Cambodia: nhoër srôk; nhoër thôm'
  • Cuba: árbol de queso; mora de la India; noni
  • Dominican Republic: bagá; buñuela; fruta del diablo ; manzana de puerto rico; manzanilla; nigua; piña de puerco; piñecla; piñuela
  • Haiti: bois bouleur; fromagier
  • Indonesia: bengkudu; cangkudu; mengkudu
  • Jamaica: hog apple
  • Laos: nhoo baanz
  • Lesser Antilles: bilimbi; feuille froide; jumbie breadfruit; pain killer; pomme de singe; pomme-macaque; rhubarbe caraïbe
  • Malaysia: mengkudu besar; mengkudu jantan
  • Philippines: apatot ; bankoro; tumbong-aso
  • Puerto Rico: gardenia hedionda; noni
  • Thailand: yo ban

EPPO code

  • MOJCI (Morinda citrifolia)

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. citrifolia is a shrub or small tree that in recent years has attained significant economic importance worldwide due to the great variety of health and cosmetic products made from its leaves and fruits. Consequently, it has been extensively introduced in cultivation and can be found cultivated and naturalized across tropical and subtropical regions of the world (Groenendijk, 1991; Nelson, 2006; Orwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017). Currently, M. citrifolia is listed as invasive in Cuba, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti (Kairo et al., 2003; Chacon and Saborio, 2012, Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012).  

M. citrifolia is a species that can tolerate and thrive in very harsh conditions.  It is well adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions and soil types. It can grow in infertile, acidic, and alkaline soils, and in areas with climates ranging from very dry to very wet. It is also tolerant to fire, waterlogging, wind, shaded conditions (>80% shade) and salt spray (Francis, 2004; Nelson, 2006; PROTA, 2017). For instance, M. citrifolia is one of the first plants to colonize harsh waste areas or lava flows on islands across the Pacific region and is also one of the few species that can thrive beneath the canopy of the allelopathic tree Casuarina equisetifolia (Nelson, 2006). Additionally, M. citrifolia has a deep taproot and an extensive and aggressive root system and once established it is very persistent and difficult to eradicate. Seeds have a distinct air chamber and can retain viability even after floating in water for months, facilitating the wide distribution and occurrence of this species on many seashores worldwide (Nelson, 2006).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Gentianales
  •                         Family: Rubiaceae
  •                             Species: Morinda citrifolia
  •                                 Species: Morinda citrifolia

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Rubiaceae is a family of flowering plants comprising 611 genera and 13,150 species of herbs, shrubs, trees and lianas distributed worldwide but largely tropical, especially diverse in Madagascar and the Andes (Stevens, 2012). The genus Morinda includes about 100 species of climbing shrubs, erect shrubs, or small trees (The Plant List, 2013).

There are forms of M. citrifolia previously recognized as botanical varieties (M. citrifolia var. citrifolia, M. citrifolia var. bracteata and M. citrifolia var. elliptica) and one cultivar (M. citrifolia cultivar Potteri) (Nelson, 2006; The Plant List, 2013), but now regarded as synonyms. The former var. bracteata is a small fruited variety with conspicuous bracts subtending the fruit. It is found in Indonesia and other parts of the region between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is cultivated in some locations. The former var. potteri is an ornamental, small-fruited, narrow-leafed type with green-and-white leaf variegation, which is distributed throughout the Pacific (Janick and Paull, 2008).

A proposal was been made to conserve the name Morinda citrifolia with a conserved type (Razafimandimbison et al., 2011). If this proposal had been rejected the name would have been applied to the species known as M. coreia and the species presently known as M. citrifolia would have to be renamed M. nodosa, which would cause confusion in this widely cultivated species.

Description

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Morinda citrifolia is a small tree or large evergreen shrub approximately 3–10 m in height at maturity and 15 cm or more in stem diameter. The plant sometimes finds support on other plants as a liana. The sapwood is soft and yellow-brown and the bark relatively smooth to slightly rough and grey or light brown. The light green, four-angled twigs have opposite, pinnately veined, glossy leaves attached by stout petioles, 1.5–2 cm long. Stipules are connate or distinct, 10–12 mm long, the apex entire or two- to three-lobed. The membranous, glabrous leaf blades range from elliptic to elliptic-ovate and range in size from 20 to 45 cm long and 7–25 cm wide. The tubular flowers are perfect, with about 75–90 in ovoid to globose heads. Peduncles are 10–30 mm long; the calyx a truncated rim. The corolla is white, five lobed, with the tube greenish white, 7–9 mm long and lobes oblong-deltate, approximately 7 mm long. There are five stamens, scarcely exserted and the style is about 15 mm long. Fruit (a syncarp) are yellowish white and fleshy, 5–14 cm long, about 3–7.5 cm in diameter, soft and fetid when ripe. Seeds are brown, about 4–9 mm long and have a distinct air chamber. The plant has a rooting habit similar to citrus and coffee, with an extensive lateral root system and a deep taproot (Janick and Paull, 2008).

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Tree
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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M. citrifolia is native to tropical and subtropical Asia and Australia and now has a pantropical distribution (Govaerts, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017), occurring roughly between latitudes 19°N and S. The Indo-Pacific distribution includes Eastern Polynesia (e.g. Hawaii, the Line Islands, Marquesas, Society Islands, Australs, Tuamotus, Pitcairn and the Cook islands), Melanesia (e.g. Fiji, Vanuatu, New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands), Western Polynesia (e.g. Samoa, Tonga, Niue, ‘Uvea/Futuna, Rotuma and Tuvalu) and Micronesia (e.g. Pohnpei, Guam, Chuuk, Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Northern Marianas), Indonesia, Australia and South-east Asia. The species has also become naturalized on the open shores of Central and South America (from Mexico to Panama, Venezuela and Surinam) and on many islands of the West Indies, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Florida Keys and parts of Africa (Janick and Paull, 2008).

A study of nucleotide sequence data by Razafimandimbison et al. (2010) suggests a Micronesian origin for M. citrifolia. Large fruited var. citrifolia may have been present in the Pacific before the arrival of Micronesian and Polynesian ancestors from South East Asia.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
CambodiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
Chagos ArchipelagoPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
ChinaPresentFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2017Probably native
-GuangdongPresentFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2017Probably native
-HainanPresentFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2017Probably native
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
Cocos IslandsPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
IndiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-AssamPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-KarnatakaPresentNativeIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2017Wild and cultivated
-KeralaPresentNativeIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2017Wild and cultivated
-MaharashtraPresentNativeIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2017Wild and cultivated
-Tamil NaduPresentNativeIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2017Wild and cultivated
IndonesiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-JavaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-MoluccasPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-Nusa TenggaraPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-SulawesiPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-SumatraPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
JapanPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
MalaysiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-SabahPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-SarawakPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
MyanmarPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
PhilippinesPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
Sri LankaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
TaiwanPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
ThailandPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
VietnamPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017

Africa

CameroonPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2017Cultivated
ComorosPresentPROTA, 2017
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2017Cultivated
MadagascarPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2017Cultivated
Sierra LeonePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017

North America

BermudaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2017
MexicoPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
USARestricted distributionIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017Only in 2 states
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
BelizePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012Tortola, Virgin Gorda
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Costa RicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Chacón and Saborío, 2012
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
HaitiPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003
HondurasPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
JamaicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
MontserratPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
PanamaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-AmazonasPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-BahiaPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-CearaPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-GoiasPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-MaranhaoPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-Mato GrossoPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-ParaPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-ParanaPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-PernambucoPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-PiauiPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedMaio and Olivera, 2015Cultivated
ColombiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
GuyanaPresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007
SurinamePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2017
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2017

Oceania

AustraliaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
-QueenslandPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
FijiPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
GuamPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2017
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
NauruPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
NiuePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
PalauPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2017
Papua New GuineaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017
Pitcairn IslandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2017
SamoaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
Solomon IslandsPresentNativeGovaerts, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017
TokelauPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
TongaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
TuvaluPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
VanuatuPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2017

History of Introduction and Spread

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M. citrifolia may have been distributed by man and carried westwards into the Indian Ocean by sea currents, reaching the Seychelles, and similarly into the Pacific between 30°N and 30°S latitude, reaching the Marquesas and Easter Island. It is present throughout South-East Asia both wild and cultivated (Groenendijk, 1991). In Hawaii, it was introduced in 1941 from Fiji and now it can be found planted and naturalized (Little and Skolmen, 2003).

M. citrifolia was widely spread across the Pacific by native peoples beginning 2000 years ago (Smith, 2002), and later in the late 1700s by Europeans exploring the islands of the South Pacific. European explorers noticed that this species was widely used by the native people across Pacific islands and for example, Captain Cook in his journals mentioned the use of “noni” for food and medicinally by island natives (Francis, 2004; Nelson, 2006).

Risk of Introduction

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The likelihood of new introductions of M. citrifolia is very high. Worldwide, this species has attained significant economic importance due to the great variety of health and cosmetic products made from its leaves and fruits (Nelson, 2006; USDA-ARS, 2017). Consequently, it has been extensively introduced and in recent years many countries in Asia, Africa and America have approved its cultivation.

Habitat

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M. citrifolia can be found growing in a wide range of habitats (e.g., from very dry to wet sites) including coastal and littoral forests, disturbed forests, dry to mesic forests, deciduous forests, xerophytic habitats, grasslands, open areas near shoreline, abandoned pastures, and coconut plantations. It is also common in home gardens, backyards, disturbed sites around villages, and along streams near cultivation (Nelson, 2006).

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Coastal areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-managed
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for M. citrifolia is n = 22 (Philip and Mathew, 1988). Within this species, there is great morphological variation for fruits and leaves with no clear subpopulations bearing unique traits (Nelson, 2006).

Reproductive Biology

Flowers in M. citrifolia are hermaphroditic. Anthesis is diurnal and flowers are visited and probably pollinated by bees, but plants can self-pollinate (Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2017).

Physiology and Phenology

M. citrifolia has a moderate growth rate (0.75–1.5 m/year), slowing as the tree reaches maturity.  However, juvenile plants may grow 1.2–1.5 m in just 6 months. Plants begin flowering and producing fruit in the first year after transplanting. Flowers and fruit are produced throughout the year. Unripe fruit are light green, turning whitish yellow when ripe. Fruit when harvested at the ‘hard white’ stage turn soft and translucent yellow within a few days. In Hawaii flowers on individual M. citrifolia trees are produced over a span of several weeks (or more) as fruit expand in size (Janick and Paull, 2008). Ripe fruit are distributed by several animals including fruit bats.

The seeds have an air chambers and float, facilitating their dispersal via oceanic currents (Macpherson et al., 2007). Dispersal of seeds in native habitats is probably by birds, rats, bats and other mammals. Seeds may remain viable for at least 6 months. Germination time is 3-9 weeks after sowing. Seed germination can be rapid and uniform (~20 days) in full sun to partial shade and mean temperature of approximately 38°C (Groenendijk, 1991; Nelson, 2006; Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2017).

Qualitative and compositional changes were determined in harvested fruits and ripening went through three stages: no significant softening, significant softening and dramatic softening (Cárdenas-Coronel et al., 2016). Ripening was accompanied by accumulation of acidity and soluble solids, and the activity of pectinases and hemicellulases promoted the differential disassembly of cell wall polymers resulting in fruit softening.

Longevity

M. citrifolia is a perennial species and plants may live for 25 to 50 years, probably longer (Nelson, 2006).

Associations

A symbiotic association in the native range with the ant species Oecophylla smaragdina has been described. The plant provides the ants with food and leaves for nesting in exchange for protection from insect predators (Tan, 2001; Francis, 2004). M. citrifolia is the principal larval host of the hawk moth, Macroglossum hirundo vitiensis in Fiji (Nelson, 2006).

Environmental Requirements

M. citrifolia grows in a very wide range of environments and soils and has an unusual ability to survive in harsh conditions such as coral atolls or basaltic lava flows. The species grows from sea level to about 1500 m, depending on latitude and environment. It prefers 20–35°C, although it can tolerate a minimum temperature of about 5°C.

M. citrifolia is a salt and salt-spray tolerant plant and is most competitive where many other plants cannot grow, such as on coral beach sands, volcanic lava flows, in brackish tide pools or on the slopes of very steep gulches. It grows very well on rocky soils, but may not compete well with grasses or other weeds in deep, silty soils. It can tolerate a wide range of precipitation patterns up to 3000 mm/year, including summer, winter, bimodal and uniform. Mature, cultivated M. citrifolia can easily withstand drought of 6 months or more. Wild M. citrifolia plants growing in arid conditions can spend their entire lives in conditions of perpetual drought.  It also tolerates waterlogging, salty soils and salt spray.

M. citrifolia can grow well under a wide range of light intensities, from full sun to over 80% shade. It can regenerate after fire by sprouting new foliage from roots or stems. The plant tolerates shallow, sodic and infertile soils (Janick and Paull, 2008). It is tolerant of windy locations, but yields and growth are retarded. The brittle woody branches are easily broken by high winds, but are easily regenerated following storms (Macpherson et al., 2007).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
30 30

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 20 25
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 32 38
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 5 18

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration04number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall250 mm4000 mmmm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Summer
Uniform
Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow
  • sodic

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Achaea janata Herbivore Whole plant not specific
Aphis gossypii Whole plant not specific
Athelia rolfsii Pathogen Whole plant not specific
Cassytha filiformis Parasite Whole plant not specific
Coccus viridis Whole plant not specific
Dialeurodes kirkaldyi Whole plant not specific
Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis Whole plant not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Nelson (2006) reports that M. citrifolia is susceptible to attack and damage by a range of insects, diseases, and pests, including:

  • Aphis gosypii (aphids)
  • Coccus viridis (green scale)
  • Dialeurodes kirkaldyi (whitefly)
  • Achaea janata
  • Heliothrips haemorroidalis (thrips)
  • Colletotrichum spp. (leaf spot disease)
  • Phytophthora spp. (fungi)
  • Athelia rolfsii
  • Meloidogyne spp. (nematodes)

M. citrifolia is also susceptible to infection by coastline parasitic plants such as Cuscuta spp. and Cassytha filiformis (Nelson, 2006).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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M. citrifolia spreads by seeds (Francis, 2004; Orwa et al., 2009). In cultivation, it can also be propagated vegetatively by cuttings made from stems and roots (Nelson, 2006).

Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

Seeds can be dispersed floating in water. Seeds have a distinct air chamber and can retain viability even after months floating in water (e.g., ocean currents and/or streams and rivers), until their deposition on suitable substrates (Nelson, 2006).

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Seeds are dispersed by bats, birds, and other mammals (Francis, 2004; Orwa et al., 2009).

Intentional Introduction

M. citrifolia has been widely introduced across tropical and subtropical regions of the world mainly for its fruits and medicinal uses (Nelson, 2006; Govaerts, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionCultivated for its fruits and leaves Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
DisturbanceNaturalized in disturbed areas near villages Yes Yes Nelson, 2006
FoodFruits/ Leaves consumed as vegetable Yes Yes Nelson, 2006
ForageFruits used to feed pigs Yes Yes Francis, 2004
Habitat restoration and improvementPlanted for control coastal erosion Yes Francis, 2004
Hedges and windbreaksWindbreak and shade tree Yes Yes Francis, 2004
Horticulture Yes Yes Francis, 2004
Internet salesSeeds and fruits sold online Yes Yes
Medicinal useWidely used for medicinal purposes Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes Nelson, 2006
People foragingFruits/ Leaves consumed as vegetable Yes Yes Nelson, 2006

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Floating vegetation and debrisSeeds can float in water for months Yes Yes Nelson, 2006
WaterSeeds floating in water Yes Yes Nelson, 2006
Host and vector organismsSeeds are dispersed by birds, bats, and other mammals Yes Yes Nelson, 2006

Environmental Impact

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M. citrifolia is an invasive species with the capability to survive harsh environmental conditions and extended periods of drought. It is also recognized for its ability of persist and to disperse and colonize new areas without a specific biological dispersal agent, such as humans, rodents, and birds. Once naturalized, this species grows forming dense canopies that inhibit the establishment of native vegetation. It also has a very aggressive and extensive root system that outcompetes native plants for resources such as water and nutrients. On some islands across the Pacific region (i.e., Micronesia) M. citrifolia is considered a weed in some agroforestry or diversified farming settings (Nelson, 2006).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Gregarious
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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M. citrifolia is harvested from both plantations and from the wild. This species is one of the most important botanical remedies and food supplements traded on the international market. Its fruits, leaves, fruit juice, and extracts are sold worldwide. The fruit and leaves are edible raw or cooked. Unripe fruit are cooked in curries and ripe fruit are consumed with salt in Myanmar. The ripe fruit has the smell of putrid cheese. Cooked fruit is mixed with coconut in Nauru. Very young leaves are cooked as vegetables (containing 4–6% protein) and eaten with rice in Java and Thailand (Janick and Paull, 2008).

M. citrifolia is often planted as a windbreak, to provide support for pepper vines, and as a shade tree in coffee plantations (Tan, 2001). It is sometime planted as an ornamental, but this practice is not very common due to the strong and sometimes offensive odour of ripened fruits and because the fallen fruits attract many flies and other insects.

All parts of the plant have traditional uses. The roots and bark are used for dyes and medicines; the trunks are used for firewood and tools; the leaves are used as leafy vegetables and for wrapping foods, in medicines and poultices; and the fruit are used as famine food, in juices and for topical and internal medicines. The root bark produces a red dye (morindin) and the plant was widely grown in Java in the late 19th century for this purpose before synthetic dyes became available. The dye is still used in high quality batik (Janick and Paull, 2008). The fruit pulp is used to clean hair, iron and steel, while the wood is occasionally used for poles and plant supports (Nguyen and Nguyen, 2003).

Economic Value

The worldwide market for products of M. citrifolia was an estimated US$400 million in 2002 and projected to reach up to US$ 1.3 billion in 2015 (Potterat and Hamburger, 2007; Assi et al., 2017). M. citrifolia contains phytochemicals that own antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antitumor, anthelminthic, analgesic, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing effects that have attracted industries to employ it as a part of various products and for wide applications such as a natural source of medicines and chemical reagents as well as a green insecticide (Assi et al., 2017).

Social Benefit

M. citrifolia has been used for centuries for its curative properties to treat varieties of illnesses. The purported modern application of M. citrifolia as a complementary alternative medicine spans a vast array of maladies including high blood pressure, diabetes, beri-beri, asthma, coughs, fevers, centipede bites, sores, headaches, pneumonia, diarrhoea, pain, arthritis, depression, cancer, AIDS, skin parasites, skin and stomach ulcers, arteriosclerosis and senility. Some of these uses can be accounted for by the presence of a number of physiologically active chemicals including anthraquinones, alkaloids, scopoletin, glycosides, polysaccharides, asperuloide and organic acids such as caprioc, caprylic and ursolic acids.

While the plant enjoys an outstanding anecdotal reputation regarding these maladies and shows promise as an anti-cancer agent in mice experiments, many purported benefits of using M. citrifolia topically or internally have yet to be supported by published data from peer-reviewed clinical trials involving humans. Nevertheless, M. citrifolia has attained significant economic importance worldwide through a variety of health and cosmetic products made from its leaves and fruit. These products, including fruit juice and powders derived from fruit or foliage, are some of the most important botanical remedies and food supplements currently traded on the international market (Nguyen and Nguyen, 2003; Janick and Paull, 2008).

The ethnomedicinal and pharmaceutical properties are reviewed by Macpherson et al., 2007, Assi et al. (2017), Ali et al. (2016) and Torres et al. (2017). Gu et al. (2018) demonstrated that leaf extracts enhanced osteogenic differentiation in human cell lines. Pandy and Vijeepallam (2017) showed that methanolic fruit extracts, specifically the scopoletin and rutin components, alleviated symptoms of schizophrenia in mice.

Environmental Services

M. citrifolia has been planted in coastal areas for erosion control (Francis, 2004). On islands across the Pacific region, M. citrifolia is also used in traditional subsistence farming, intercropped with breadfruit, kava, papaya, mango, coconut, and bananas (Nelson, 2006).

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Agroforestry
  • Amenity
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Windbreak

Fuels

  • Fuelwood

Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base
  • Emergency (famine) food
  • Fruits
  • Honey/honey flora
  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Chemicals
  • Cosmetics
  • Dye/tanning
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Christmas tree
  • Cut flower
  • garden plant
  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Prevention and Control

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M. citrifolia has deep taproot and an extensive and aggressive root system and once established it is very persistent and difficult to eradicate (Nelson, 2006). There is no information available for the chemical control of M. citrifolia.

References

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Contributors

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08/05/17 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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