Botanical Description

M. oleifera Lam belongs to the genus Moringaceae, which consists of 14 known species. Of these, M. oleifera is the most widely known and utilized. The plant is a native of the sub-Himalayan regions of North-West India, and is now indigenous to many countries in Africa, Arabia, South East Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean islands, and South America. The tree is widely known as the drumstick or horseradish tree. In Malaysia, the plant is known as "kelor". The tree ranges in height from 5 to 12 m, with an open, umbrella-shaped crown, and a straight short trunk with corky, whitish bark and soft, spongy wood. It has slender, wide-spreading, drooping, fragile branches. The foliage can be evergreen or deciduous, depending on climatic conditions. It is attractive and gracefully lacy, the alternate twice- or thrice-pinnate leaves being spirally arranged, mostly at the branch tips. The leaves are about 20—50 cm long, with a long petiole and four to six pairs of pinnae bearing two pairs of opposite leaflets that are elliptical or obovate (Figure 93.1A). The fruits (or pods) are initially light green (Figure 93.1B), becoming dark green, and grow up to 60 cm long. When mature, they become dry and brown in color (Figure 93.1C). Mature seeds are round or triangular-shaped, and the kernel is surrounded by a light wooded shell with three papery wings (Figure 93.1D).

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Health And Fitness 101

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