Moringa hildebrandtii Engler

Moringa hildebrandtii is a beautiful tree with a massive, water-storing trunk that can grow to 20 meters tall. This bloated trunk makes Moringa hildebrandtii strongly resemble the more well-known but unrelated baobab trees (Adansonia) that also occur in Madagascar. The pinnately compound leaves can be up to a meter long, and the leaf rachis and stem tip of young plants is often a distinctive deep red. The small whitish flowers are borne in large sprays.

The first collection of Moringa hildebrandtii by western botanists was made in 1880, by Hildebrandt. He found it growing in the town of Trabonjy in northwestern Madagascar. Since then, other botanists have documented  it growing in villages of the west coast, but no specimens have ever been collected from wild stands.

One of the main goals of my field work in Madagascar in early 1998 was to determine where Moringa hildebrandtii occurs in the wild. I worked with fellow Missouri Botanical Garden student Sylvain Razafimandimbison. We concluded that the tree no longer occurs in the wild. However, our assesment for the survival of Moringa hildebrandtii is good. It is frequently planted in villages all along the west coast of the island, and seeds abundantly. The trees are planted as ornamentals, for medicine, and to mark special occasions. You can download our paper here:

Olson, M. E., and S. G. Razafimandimbison. 2000. Moringa hildebrandtii: A tree extinct in the wild but preserved by indigenous horticultural practices in Madagascar. Adansonia sér. 3 22(2) 217-221.

 Inspired by our work, plantsmen searched southwestern Madagascar and in 2007 seem to have located wild stands of this species! See J. -B. Castillon and J.-P. Castillon. 2007. The recent discovery of the first wild population of Moringa hildebrandtii (Moringaceae) in Madagascar. Cactus World.

Moringa hildebrandtii images
 hildebrandtii trunk    hildebrandtii red petioles
click on a thumbnail for a larger version


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