NONIS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
In fruit markets here sometimes you see heaps of greenish-yellow, potato-size fruits you never saw just a few years ago. It's one of those "wonder fruits with a great future" introduced with great fanfare as an important, alternative, money-making crop. The fruits and the small tree producing them are called Noni. The plant is MORINDA CITRIFOLIA, a member of the large, mostly tropical Coffee Family, the Rubiaceae.
Occasionally in the Yucatan I've seen small plantations of Noni trees but this is the first time I've seen them planted along roads and in folks' backyards. You can see a fertile Noni branch below:
If you Google Noni fruits you'll find extravagant claims about the medicinal value of Noni fruits, and see that much research has been done on the chemicals in them. The fruits certainly taste medicinal, more bitter than sweet. In fact, usually when I see them in markets they're just lying there rotting because very few people buy them. Some Noni producers tell me that they've found markets for their fruits but others say they can't sell them, so I just don't know if this alternative crop is living up to its earlier promise. The fellow who sells me bananas is the owner of the tree in the photograph. He says he makes a drink from Noni juice, softening its bitterness with orange juice, and he looks like he's 45 but says he's 63, so...
Above you see an immature Noni fruit with flowers attached to it. This picture explains why Noni fruits are so bumpy and each bump bears a little "eye." For, Noni fruits don't develop from single flowers. Rather, as the flowers on the left show, each bump on a fruit develops from a flower's ovary. The Noni "fruit," then, is a "multiple fruit," consisting of several to many packed-together simple fruits. Mulberries, Osage Oranges, pineapples and figs are other examples of multiple fruits, which are to be distinguished from "aggregate fruits," which look like multiple fruits, but each bump on a multiple fruit develops from one of several separate pistils in a single flower -- one flower with several pistils. Diagrams are provided at http://www.backyardnature.net/frt_3grp.htm.
One important feature distinguishing the Coffee Family is that its flowers have "inferior ovaries" -- the calyx and corolla arise atop the ovary instead of below it, as in most flowers. An explanatory diagram is at http://www.backyardnature.net/inf_sup.gif.
Therefore, the eyes on each bump of a Noni multiple fruit are scars where the calyx and corolla of individual flowers have fallen off.
from the February 14, 2010 Newsletter issued from
Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
Noni trees bear very conspicuous stipules, and since many people have problems visualizing stipules, you can see the Noni's big ones below. Those two roundish, green things occupying the picture's center are stipules.