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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

mango (Mangifera indica)

Description

The mango tree is a large, spreading evergreen with a dense crown. Mature trees can attain a height of 40 m or more, with a 60-120 cm trunk and greyish-brown, longitude-fissured bark.

Seeds

Mango seeds are solitary, large and flat, ovoid oblong, and surrounded by the fibrous endocarp at maturity. The testa and tegumen are thin and papery. Embryos are dicotyledonous. The seeds are recalcitrant and cannot survive for more than a few days or weeks at ambient temperatures. This important characteristic inhibited the long distance dispersal of mango by seed until recent times.

Seedlings

The mango seedling (or seedlings in the case of polyembryonic seeds) emerges after 2 weeks and grows rhythmically from the start: a flush brings out the new shoot which extends in about 1 months’ time, after which the buds remain quiescent for shorter or longer periods. Flushes occur more or less synchronously, depending upon the climate; during a long wet season the synchronization is gradually weakened.

Leaves

Leaves are produced in flushes of 10-12 new leaves, 1-3 times a year. Leaves persist on the tree for 4-5 years before being shed. Leaf morphology is highly variable depending on cultivar. Leaves are spirally arranged, simple; young leaves are copper-coloured, turning to light then dark shiny green; petiole 1-12.5 cm long, with pulvinus at the base; blade variable in size and shape, usually narrowly elliptic to lanceolate, 12-38 x 2-13 cm, somewhat leathery, tapering at base, margin often undulate, apex acuminate, nerves 12-30 pairs, elevated on both surfaces.

Roots

The tree roots to a considerable depth. The root system consists of a long, vigorous taproot and abundant surface feeder roots, enabling the tree to find the moisture necessary for flowering/flushing during the dry season.

Flowers

The inflorescence can reach full bloom from the time of flower initiation in 25-30 days. The Mango inflorescence is a terminal compose thirsoid and are glabrous or pubescent. The inflorescence is rigid and erect, up to 30 cm long, and is widely branched, usually tertiary, although the final branch is always cymose. It is usually densely flowered and the flowers are either male or hermaphrodite both borne within a single inflorescence. It has 300–6000 reddish-pink to greenish-white flowers (depending upon the cultivar), 5-8 mm in diameter, pedicels 1 mm long; calyx 5-lobed; 5 petals (twice as long as the calyx, ovate to ovoid to lanceolate and also thinly pubescent); pistil abortive in male flowers, style lateral, stigma simple. The panicles consist of male and perfect hermaphrodite flowers, with a varying sex ratio. The pistil aborts in male flowers. A good crop of fruit is obtained when only a small percentage of the flowers are pollinated. The ratio of male to perfect flowers is strongly influenced by environmental and cultural factors. The floral disc is also four- or five-lobed, fleshy and large and located above the base of the petals. There are five large, fleshy stamens, only one or two of them being fertile; the remaining stamens are sterile staminodes that are surmounted by a small gland. In addition, two or three smaller filaments arise from the lobes of the nectaries. The stamens are central. The ovule is anatropous and pendulous.

Fruit

The mango fruit is a large, fleshy drupe, containing an edible mesocarp of varying thickness. The mesocarp is resinous and highly variable with respect to shape, size, colour, presence of fibre and flavour. The flavour ranges from turpentine to sweet. The exocarp is thick and glandular. There is a characteristic beak that develops laterally on the proximal end of the fruit. A sinus is always present above the beak. Fruit shape varies, including elongate, oblong and ovate or intermediate forms involving two of these shapes. Fruit length can range from 2.5 to >30 cm, depending on the cultivar. The endocarp is woody, thick and fibrous; the fibres in the mesocarp arise from the endocarp. The mango fruit is climacteric, and increased ethylene production occurs during ripening. Chlorophyll, carotenes, anthocyanins and xanthophylls are all present in the fruit. The skin is generally a mixture of green, red and yellow pigments, although fruit colour at maturity is genotype dependent. Fruit of ‘Bombay Green’ is green; ‘Carabao’, ‘Manila’, ‘Mulgoa’ and ‘Arumanis’ are greenish-yellow; ‘Dashehari’ and ‘Alphonso’ are yellow; and ‘Haden’, ‘Keitt’ and ‘Tommy Atkins’ have a red blush. The red blush is due to the presence of anthocyanins.

The fruit grow fast: they ripen after 3-4 months, some late cultivars after 5 months. The period from fruit set to maturity depends upon cultivar and climate and can range from 10 to 28 weeks.

Lack of fruit set is attributed to: (i) lack of fertile pollen; (ii) poor pollen-tube growth; (iii) failure of ovule fertilization; (iv) failure of pistil or ovules to develop; (v) abortions of embryo sac, embryo or endosperm; (vi) anthracnose disease of the flowers; and (vii) other physical and cultural factors.

Principal sources: Litz (2009), Paull and Duarte (2010)

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