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Great Morinda
Morinda citrifolia

Indian Mulberry, Mengkudu (Malay),
Nonu/Nono (Pacific Islands), Noni (Hawaii)

leavesThe plant grows well on sandy or rocky shores. Apart from saline conditions, the plant also can withstand drought and grows in secondary soils. Thus the plant can be seen in clearings, volcanic terrain, lava-strewn coasts and on limestone outcrops.

Uses as food: The fruits are edible, but don't have a nice taste or smell. In fact, some people consider the ripe fruits to smell like vomit!
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Grows 5-9 m tall.

Leaves: Large, simple, dark green, shiny, deeply veined.

Small, white, growing from a fleshy structure. Blooms and fruits year round.

Oval, medium 4-7cm, at first green, turning light yellow or white when ripe. Has many seeds.
Status in Singapore: ?

World distribution: Native to Southeast Asia but spread to India and the Pacific Islands.

Classification: Family Combretaceae.
Nevertheless, the fruits were eaten as a famine food, and in some Pacific islands, are even a staple food of choice (Raratonga, Samoa, Fiji), where they were eaten raw or cooked. Elsewhere, the fruit is eaten raw with salt (Indochina, Australian Aborigines); or cooked as a curry. The fruits may also be fed to pig livestock. The young leaves can also be eaten as a vegetable and contain protein (4-6%). Seeds may be roasted and eaten.

Other uses: The bark of the Great Morinda produces a reddish purple and brown dye used in making batik and the tree was widely grown for this purpose in Java. In Hawaii, a yellowish dye was also extracted from the roots and also used to dye cloth. The tree was also purposely planted to provide support for pepper vines and shade tree for coffee bushes. Also as a wind-break in Surinam.

Traditional medicinal uses: Various parts are used to contain fever and as a tonic (Chinese, Japan, Hawaii); leaves, flowers, fruit, bark to treat eye problems, skin wounds and abscesses, gum and throat problems, respiratory ailments, constipation, fever (Pacific Islands, Hawaii); to treat stomach pains and after delivery (Marshall Islands). Heated leaves applied to the chest relieve coughs, nausea, colic (Malaysia); juice of the leaves is taken for arthritis (Philippines). The fruit is taken for lumbago, asthma and dysentery (Indochina); pounded unripe fruit is mixed with salt and applied to cuts and broken bones; ripe fruit is used to draw out pus from an infected boil (Hawaii); juices of over-ripe fruits are taken to regulate menstrual flow, ease urinary problems (Malay); fruits used to make a shampoo (Malay, Hawaii) and to treat head lice (Hawaii). Other exotic diseases treated with the plant include diabetes (widespread) and venereal diseases.

Role in the habitat: Like other mangrove and shore plants, the Great Morinda helps to stabilise the shore and provide shade under which other less hardy plants can establish themselves. Their fruits appear to attract the Weaver Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina), which also often make their remarkable nests out of the living leaves of the plant. In residence, these ants may protect the plant from insect predators.

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  • Wee Yeow Chin, "A Guide to Medicinal Plants", Singapore Science Centre, 1992 (p. 106: description, chemical compounds, uses, photo).
  • Dr E Soepadmo (ed.), "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Plants", Editions Didier Millet, 1998 (p. 16: seasonality).
By Ria Tan, 2001