Monodora myristica (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Monodora myristica (Gaertner) Dunal

Family: Annonaceae


  • Annona myristica Gaertner,
  • Monodora grandiflora Bentham,
  • Xylopia undulata Pal. de Beauv.

Vernacular names

  • African nutmeg, calabash nutmeg, calabar nutmeg (En)
  • Fausse noix muscade, muscadier de calabash (Fr)


Originating from Africa, from Liberia to Cameroons, Uganda and Angola. It is occasionally cultivated in those areas and elsewhere.


The aromatic seeds are ground and used as a condiment in food, imparting a flavour resembling that of nutmeg. The seeds are a popular spice and for sale all over West Africa. Medicinally the seeds are used as a stimulant, stomachic, insect repellent, and to cure headache and sores. The seeds are also made into necklaces worn by women for their scent. They contain 5-9% of a colourless essential oil. The tree is also grown as an ornamental for its conspicuous, attractive and scented flowers. The white or greyish wood is hard but easy to work and suitable for carpentry, turnery and walking sticks. The bark is used to treat haemorrhoids, stomach-ache, febrile pains and eye diseases.


  • Tree, up to 35 m tall; trunk clear, up to 2 m in girth, branches horizontal; bark thin and smooth, slash white.
  • Leaves drooping, thick, alternate; petiole thick, about 1 cm long; blade obovate, oblong or elliptical, up to 45 cm × 20 cm, lateral veins up to 20 pairs, secondary veins running parallel.
  • Flowers singular, appearing at the base of young shoots when new leaves appear; pedicel up to 20 cm long, bearing a leaf-like bract at about one third from top; flower large, pendent, fragrant; calyx over 2.5 cm long, edges wavy, crisped, red-spotted; petals 6, outer 3 up to 10 cm long, with crisped margins, spotted red, yellow and green; inner 3 petals subtriangular, forming a white-yellow cone at the centre and spotted red outside and green inside.
  • Fruit a globose berry, up to 20 cm in diameter, suspended on a long stalk, green, with numerous seeds embedded in whitish sweet-smelling pulp.
  • Seed oblongoid, about 1.5 cm long, pale brown.

M. myristica occurs in evergreen and deciduous forest. Flowers are protogynous and insect-pollinated. It may be an interesting multipurpose tree for the wetter parts of South-East Asia. It was introduced into Indonesia (Bogor Botanical Garden) in 1897; now several cloned trees are present and flower regularly but fail to set fruit, possibly because of a self-incompatibility factor. Seeds of other Monodora species have similar uses.

Selected sources

  • Burkill, I.H., 1935. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. 2 volumes. Crown Agents for the Colonies, London, United Kingdom. 2402 pp. (slightly revised reprint, 1966. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 2444 pp.).
  • Burkill, H.M., 1985- . The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. Vol. 1- . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom.
  • Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
  • Lamoureux, C.H., 1975. Phenology and floral biology of Monodora myristica (Annonaceae) in Bogor, Indonesia. Annales Bogoriensis 6(1): 1-25.
  • Mansfeld, R., 1986. Verzeichnis landwirtschaftlicher und gärtnerischer Kulturpflanzen (ohne Zierpflanzen) [Register of agricultural and horticultural plants in cultivation (without ornamentals)]. Schultze‑Motel, J. et al., editors 2nd edition, 4 volumes. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 1998 pp.
  • Walker, A.R. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon [The useful plants of Gabon]. Encyclopédie Biologique 56. Éditions Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.


P.C.M. Jansen