Mangifera indica



Mangifera indica

L. 1573

pronounced: man-GIFF-er-uh IN-dik-uh

(Anacardiaceae — the mango family)


common name: mango

Mangifera means ‘bearing mangoes’, and indica, of course, means ‘of India’. The mango is indigenous to the Indian sub-continent and south-east Asia.

No resident of, or visitor to, Magnetic Island can fail to be aware of the magnificent mango trees that grow in gardens all over the island. Indeed, until recently the fruit was grown commercially in Horseshoe Bay, the last remaining mango farm having not long ago been sold for redevelopment. The trees are handsome landscape specimens and shade trees, and can grow up to about 20 m high. The tree in the photographs is on the corner of Picnic and Magnetic Streets, Picnic Bay. The mango tree is long-lived – in India there are some known to be over 300 years old and still fruiting. In deep soils the tap root of a mango tree will go down for as much as 6 m, and the wide-spreading feeder roots also send down many anchor roots that go down for a couple of metres. The leaves are dark green on top and a paler green below, and usually pinky red when young. Full-grown leaves can be up to 30 cm long and 5 – 6 cm broad, and are generally borne in clusters separated by a length of naked stem that does not bear buds. These naked stems mark successive flushes of growth. Each flush of growth hardens off to a rich green colour before the next flush of growth begins.

The flowers, yellowish or reddish, are borne on inflorescences at the ends of branches, in dense panicles of up to 2000 tiny flowers. The pollinators are flies and hoverflies, and only rarely bees. Few of the flowers in each inflorescence are perfect, so most of them do not produce pollen and cannot produce fruit. Pollen cannot be shed in high humidity or rain, or when the temperature drops below 12ºC. Every year, when the trees are in flower, there is invariably a period of strong winds, known locally as “the mango winds”, which also remove many of the flowers, and are always blamed by the locals when there is a poor fruiting season. Mangoes are monoecious and self-fertile, so a single tree will produce fruit without cross-pollination. The fruits grow at the end of a long, string-like stem (the former panicle), sometimes with two or more fruits to a stem, and, depending on the variety, from about 5 to 23 cm long, kidney-shaped, ovate, or occasionally round, and can weigh up to about 700 grammes. The fruits of the ‘common’ mango have very stringy flesh, and really need to be eaten in the bath; but the varieties sold in the shops have flesh that contains few if any fibres. Most of the local trees are so-called ‘common’ mangoes. Commercial growers now normally grow varieties and cultivars borne on much smaller trees, to facilitate the picking of the fruit. Most notable of these, in Queensland, are the ‘Bowen Special’ or Kensington Pride, a medium-sized, soft, sweet fruit with golden flesh and a rich orange skin, often with a pink-red blush, available all summer; and the not-very-romantically named R2E2, a large round fruit, with firm flesh and a milder flavour. The skin has an orange-red blush and the flesh is a beautiful lemon-yellow colour. It’s a mid to late season variety that’s excellent for slicing into salads as it retains its shape. On the mainland, there are  contractors who purchase the crops from trees in private gardens. Many of the mangoes harvested in this way are used for chutney and pickle making. When ripe, the unpeeled fruit gives off a distinctive resinous sweet smell. In its centre is a single flat oblong seed. Inside the thick seed-coat is a single embryo. I was interested to find, while researching for this article, that about 50% of all the tropical fruits produced worldwide are mangoes.

The wood from this tree is a very beautiful dense hardwood, although lighter in colour than most other hardwoods. Although strong, it is reasonably easy to work, and lends itself well to carving and turning. It displays interesting colour properties, of many different hues and tones, with browns and tans and even greens. It looks lovely in its natural form, but even better after waxing and polishing.

Much of the outdoor furniture at the Picnic Bay Hotel is made from mango wood.

The mango tree is host plant to a number of Lepidoptera larvae, inclusing:

      • the moth Autoba versicolor;
      • the moth Lymantria lunata;
      • the Mango Shoot Borer Penicillaria jocosatrix;
      • the moth Comostola laesaria; and
      • the Macadamia Kernel Grub Assara seminivale.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2005, 2008
Page last updated 1st February 2019