Prota 14: Vegetable oils/Oléagineux
Ann. Inst. Bot.-Géol. Colon. Marseille sér. 4, 8: 15 (1930).
Origin and geographic distribution
Moringa drouhardii is endemic to Toliara province in south-western Madagascar, where it occurs wild and planted. It is also planted in other places along the west coast.
The seeds yield an oil that is used as a base for cosmetic products and as a medicinal massage oil. The very strongly scented bark and wood are used for treatment of colds and coughs. The tree is often planted on field boundaries.
The oil is odourless, tasteless and does not become rancid in storage, making it an excellent base in perfumery and pharmacology. It was formerly used as a base-oil in enfleurage to extract fragrant volatile compounds from flowers. The seed contains 36–45% oil; the approximate fatty acid composition of the oil is: palmitic acid 8%, stearic acid 9%, oleic acid 74%, linoleic acid 1%, arachidic acid 3%, behenic acid 3%.
Small, deciduous tree up to 10(–18) m tall with a swollen bole and short branches near the top; bark whitish, containing resin. Leaves alternate, 3-pinnate; stipules absent; petiole 10–15 cm long, stalks of pinnae 2–3 cm long, petiolules 3–4 mm long, all glabrous and with glands at base; leaflets opposite, ovate to oblong, 15–30 mm × 5–12 mm, base cuneate, apex acute, glabrous, bright green. Inflorescence an axillary, lax, many-flowered panicle up to 30 cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, yellowish white; pedicel up to 2 mm long; sepals free, obovate, 5–6 mm × c. 2 mm, narrowing to the base, apex rounded, glabrous; petals free, ovate, 7–10 mm × c. 2 mm, apex incurved, glabrescent outside, slightly short-hairy inside; stamens 5, free, 6–8 mm long, hairy, alternating with 5 staminodes c. 4 mm long; ovary superior, stalked, ovoid, c. 1.5 mm long, 1-celled, style slender, 3–4 mm long. Fruit an elongate capsule 30–50 cm long, somewhat trigonous, narrowed between the seeds, with a beak, glabrous, dehiscent with 3 valves. Seeds trigonous to ovoid, 2–2.5 cm × c. 2 cm, whitish, glabrous.
Growth of young trees is very fast, allowing Moringa drouhardii to occupy open spaces in the forest. In cultivation it grows at a rate of more than 1 m per year. Trees start bearing 3 years after planting when they have reached a height of 3–4 m.
Moringa comprises 13 species, of which 8 are endemic to the Horn of Africa and 2 to Madagascar. Moringa oleifera Lam. originates from tropical Asia, but has been introduced throughout the tropics; it has become naturalized in many African countries, including Madagascar. Its fruits are used as a vegetable.
The natural habitat is very dry forest. Rainfall may be as low as 200 mm per year and very unreliable. Completely dry years are not uncommon. Moringa drouhardii occurs on calcareous soils.
Propagation by seed is straightforward. Seeds are sown in fertile soil in a nursery. During the dry season seedlings can be transplanted into the field without irrigation, even into dry places with poor soil.
Genetic resources and breeding
Moringa drouhardii is still fairly common in its natural habitat and is commonly planted. It does not seem to be endangered or vulnerable.
The excellent qualities of the oil in cosmetic and medicinal products and its adaptation to very dry conditions deserve further research into the possibilities of domestication and utilization in small-scale industries.
• de Saint Sauveur, A., 2001. Moringa exploitation in the world: state of knowledge and challenges. [Internet] Paper presented at the conference Development potential of Moringa products, held 29 October–2 November 2001 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. http://www.moringanews.org/ actes/ saintsauveur_en.doc. Accessed October 2006.
• Delaveau, P. & Boiteau, P., 1980. Huiles a intérêt pharmacologique, cosmétologique et diététique: IV - Huiles de Moringa oleifera Lam. et de Moringa drouhardii Jumelle. Plantes médicinales et Phytothérapie 14: 29–33.
• Keraudren, M., 1965. Le genre Moringa en Afrique et à Madagascar (affinités systématiques, intérêt biogéographique). Webbia 19: 815–824.
• Keraudren-Aymonin, M., 1982. Moringaceae. Flore de Madagascar et des Comores, familles 84–87. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 33–40.
• Olson, M.E. & Carlquist, S., 2001. Stem and root anatomical correlations with life form diversity, ecology and systematics in Moringa (Moringaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 135: 315–348.
• Jahn, S.A.A., Musnad, H.A. & Burgstaller, H., 1986. The tree that purifies water: cultivating multipurpose Moringaceae in the Sudan. Unasylva 152: 23–28.
Correct citation of this article:
Munyanziza, E., 2007. Moringa drouhardii Jum. In: van der Vossen, H.A.M. & Mkamilo, G.S. (Editors). PROTA 14: Vegetable oils/Oléagineux. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.