Mangifera indica


Family: Belongs surprisingly to the Anacardiaceae or Cashew family, notorious for embracing a number of highly poisonous plants such as the Poison Ivy of temperate regions (Rhus toxicodendron); family also includes Cashew or Pomme Noix (Anacardium occidentale), Hog Plum or Mombin (Spondias mombin) and Golden Apple (Spondias dulcis).

Description: One of the most delectable of fruits; several trees of different varieties (cultivars) can be seen in Gardens, for example, there are two mid-size specimens on hillside above Lower Garden Path, SE of current Agriculture Dept. building, but they are in poor condition, almost over-run by wild forest trees; typically, trees medium to large, up to 30 m high (100 ft) and 38 m in width (125 ft), quick-growing, with short, thick trunk bearing many branches forming dense, dome-shaped crown; old trees have small buttresses at base of stem; leaves lanceolate, persistent, shiny and somewhat brittle, 15-25 cm long(6-10 in), 2.5-5.0 cm wide (1-2 in), reddish when young, dark green later; flowers have male and female on same tree, are small, yellowish or reddish, with hundreds in showy, terminal, pyramidal, compound panicles, 8-38 cm long (3-15 in); Fruit, depending on variety, roughly oval, kidney-shaped or round, fleshy, pendent drupe, with single flat, fibrous seed, varying in size, 5-25 cm long (2-10 in) and from a few ounces to about 2 kg (4.5 lbs), born singly or in pendulous groups on long stalk; when ripe, 2-2.5 months after flowering, fruit aromatic, usually green, greenish yellow or greenish pink; has thin skin, and thick, orange or peach-colored, sweet, very juicy, somewhat fibrous, slightly acid, aromatic pulp; there are numerous mango varieties with fruit varying in size, flesh quality and flavor; less attractive varieties have more fibrous flesh and a turpintiney flavor; dwarf varieties also exist, one being a slow-growing variant of the Julie cultivar; fruiting time about April-August; the prized variety in Dominica is Julie, other popular varieties include Longue, Lica, and Bitterskin; Sap of tree and unripe fruit, especially peel, contains mangiferen, resinous acid, mangiferic acid, and the resinol, mangiferol; it can be severe irritant for some people, with typically delayed reaction, as with Poison Ivy; hypersensitive people may react with considerable swelling of eyelids, face, and other parts of body; condition referred to as "mango poisoning".

Natural Habitat: Thrives in drier tropics with a hot, dry season and deep, well-drained soil; for many varieties, propagation generally by seed, but viability short under natural conditions, less than one month; due to possibility of cross breeding, better varieties best propagated by grafting or layering to guarantee fruit quality and quicker bearing (4-5 years vs 6 or more years for seedlings).

Origin and Distribution: Indigenous to Tropical Asia, especially eastern India and Malay Peninsular; cultivated in all warm climates and variously in sub-tropics; varieties in Gardens include Julie, Chaewie and Bombay, survivors of the numerous varieties originally planted there.

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