Earth logo

History of mango


By RilwanPublished 9 months ago 5 min read
History of mango
Photo by Becky Mattson on Unsplash

Worldwide, there are several hundred cultivars of mango. Depending on the cultivar, mango fruit varies in size, shape, sweetness, skin color, and flesh color, which may be pale yellow, gold, green, or orange.[1] Mango is the national fruit of India, Pakistan and the Philippines,[5][6] while the mango tree is the national tree of Bangladesh.[7]


The English word mango (plural "mangoes" or "mangos") originated in the 16th century from the Portuguese word, manga, from the Malay mangga, and ultimately from the Tamil man ("mango tree") + kay ("fruit").[8][9] The scientific name, Mangifera indica, refers to a plant bearing mangoes in India.[9]


Mango trees grow to 30–40 metres (98–131 feet) tall, with a crown radius of 10–15 m (33–49 ft). The trees are long-lived, as some specimens still fruit after 300 years.[10]

In deep soil, the taproot descends to a depth of 6 m (20 ft), with profuse, wide-spreading feeder roots and anchor roots penetrating deeply into the soil.[1] The leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple, 15–35 centimetres (6–14 inches) long, and 6–16 cm (2+1⁄2–6+1⁄2 in) broad; when the leaves are young they are orange-pink, rapidly changing to a dark, glossy red, then dark green as they mature.[1] The flowers are produced in terminal panicles 10–40 cm (4–15+1⁄2 in) long; each flower is small and white with five petals 5–10 millimetres (3⁄16–3⁄8 in) long, with a mild, sweet fragrance.[1] Over 500 varieties of mangoes are known,[1] many of which ripen in summer, while some give a double crop.[11] The fruit takes four to five months from flowering to ripening.[1]

The ripe fruit varies according to cultivar in size, shape, color, sweetness, and eating quality.[1] Depending on the cultivar, fruits are variously yellow, orange, red, or green.[1] The fruit has a single flat, oblong pit that can be fibrous or hairy on the surface and does not separate easily from the pulp.[1] The fruits may be somewhat round, oval, or kidney-shaped, ranging from 5–25 centimetres (2–10 in) in length and from 140 grams (5 oz) to 2 kilograms (5 lb) in weight per individual fruit.[1] The skin is leather-like, waxy, smooth, and fragrant, with colors ranging from green to yellow, yellow-orange, yellow-red, or blushed with various shades of red, purple, pink, or yellow when fully ripe.[1]

Ripe intact mangoes give off a distinctive resinous, sweet smell.[1] Inside the pit 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) thick is a thin lining covering a single seed, 4–7 cm (1.6–2.8 in) long. Mangoes have recalcitrant seeds which do not survive freezing and drying.[12] Mango trees grow readily from seeds, with germination success highest when seeds are obtained from mature fruits.[1]

Mangoes originated from the region between northwestern Myanmar, Bangladesh, and northeastern India.[2][3] The mango is considered an evolutionary anachronism, whereby seed dispersal was once accomplished by a now-extinct evolutionary forager, such as a megafauna mammal.[13]

From their center of origin, mangoes diverged into two genetically distinct populations: the subtropical Indian group and the tropical Southeast Asian group. The Indian group is characterized by having monoembryonic fruits, while polyembryonic fruits characterize the Southeast Asian group.[2][3]

It was previously believed that mangoes originated from a single domestication event in South Asia before being spread to Southeast Asia, but a 2019 study found no evidence of a center of diversity in India. Instead, it identified a higher unique genetic diversity in Southeast Asian cultivars than in Indian cultivars, indicating that mangoes may have originally been domesticated first in Southeast Asia before being introduced to South Asia. However, the authors also cautioned that the diversity in Southeast Asian mangoes might be the result of other reasons (like interspecific hybridization with other Mangifera species native to the Malesian ecoregion). Nevertheless, the existence of two distinct genetic populations also identified by the study indicates that the domestication of the mango is more complex than previously assumed and would at least indicate multiple domestication events in Southeast Asia and South Asia.[2][3]


Main article: List of mango cultivars

There are many hundreds of named mango cultivars. In mango orchards, several cultivars are often grown to improve pollination. Many desired cultivars are monoembryonic and must be propagated by grafting, or they do not breed true. A common monoembryonic cultivar is 'Alphonso', an important export product, considered "the king of mangoes."[14]

Cultivars that excel in one climate may fail elsewhere. For example, Indian cultivars such as 'Julie,' a prolific cultivar in Jamaica, require annual fungicide treatments to escape the lethal fungal disease anthracnose in Florida. Asian mangoes are resistant to anthracnose.[15]

The current world market is dominated by the cultivar 'Tommy Atkins', a seedling of 'Haden' that first fruited in 1940 in southern Florida and was initially rejected commercially by Florida researchers.[16] Growers and importers worldwide have embraced the cultivar for its excellent productivity and disease resistance, shelf life, transportability, size, and appealing color.[17] Although the Tommy Atkins cultivar is commercially successful, other cultivars may be preferred by consumers for eating pleasure, such as Alphonso.[14][17]

Generally, ripe mangoes have an orange-yellow or reddish peel and are juicy for eating, while exported fruit are often picked while underripe with green peels. Although producing ethylene while ripening, unripened exported mangoes do not have the same juiciness or flavor as fresh fruit.

From tropical Asia, mangoes were introduced to East Africa by Arab and Persian traders in the ninth to tenth centuries.[18] The 14th-century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta reported it at Mogadishu.[19] It was spread further into other areas around the world during the Colonial Era. The Portuguese Empire spread the mango from their colony in Goa to East and West Africa. From West Africa, they introduced it to Brazil from the 16th to the 17th centuries. From Brazil, it spread northwards to the Caribbean and eastern Mexico by the mid to late 18th century. The Spanish Empire also introduced mangoes directly from the Philippines to western Mexico via the Manila galleons from at least the 16th century. Mangoes were only introduced to Florida by 1833.[3][20]


About the Creator

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.