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Carica papaya - L.

Common Name Papaya, Mamo, Melon Tree
Family Caricaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards Older leaves contain the alkaloid carpaine[ 298 ].
Habitats Not known as a truly wild plant
Range The original habitat is believed to be Central America and southern Mexico, but is not known for certain.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Carica papaya Papaya, Mamo, Melon Tree

Carica papaya Papaya, Mamo, Melon Tree


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Papaya or Carica papaya otherwise known as Mam'o or Melon Tree is one of the most popular trees cultivated for its tropical fruits. It grows up to 10 m tall with a non-woody, hollow bole of up to 30 cm in diameter. The fruit is consumed raw or cooked. It can be eaten fresh when ripe or as vegetable (immature fruits), processed, preserved, or dried. The seeds are used as spice; the male flowers and young leaves are also edible when cooked. Papaya is also valued for its medicinal uses. It is a source of the enzyme papain which is a digestive stimulant, and can be used in wounds. The fruit is used to treat diabetes, hypertension, warts, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, and painful womb. The leaves are applied externally to wounds to aid in the healing process. It is cooked and used against malaria, irregular bowel movement in children, and threadworms and roundworms. Latex obtained from the trunk is used in wounds as well, and in gums to relieve toothache. Young leaves are used as mulch.

Physical Characteristics

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Carica papaya is an evergreen Tree growing to 8 m (26ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Moths, Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Carica bourgeaui Solms Carica citriformis J.Jacq. ex Spreng. Carica citriformis Jacq. Carica cubensi

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Fruit  Leaves  Seed
Edible Uses: Condiment  Drink

Edible portion: Fruit, Flowers, Leaves, Vegetable, Seeds - spice. Fruit - raw or cooked. The vitamin-rich fruit has a firm, creamy texture and a delightful flavour reminiscent of melon and apricot[ 200 ]. Delicious raw[ 301 , K ], it is a very versatile fruit and can also be preserved, dried, cooked in pies, made into jam, ice cream, jellies, sherbets etc[ 301 ]. The immature green fruit can be eaten as a vegetable, either boiled, baked, made into chutneys, jams or added to vegetable soups etc[ 296 , 301 ]. Seeds - used as a spice, especially in salad dressings[ 296 , 301 ]. A pungent, mustard and cress-like flavour[ 238 ]. Male flowers - cooked and used as a green vegetable[ 296 ]. A bitter flavour, it is probably best to change the water at least once during the cooking[ 296 ]. Very young leaves - cooked[ 298 , 418 ]. A strong bitter flavour[ 298 ]. Some caution is advised since older leaves contain alkaloids[ 298 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Antidiarrhoeal  Aphrodisiac  Appetizer  Astringent  Cancer  Digestive  Dysentery  
Hypotensive  Kidney  Laxative  Malaria  Parasiticide  Purgative  Skin  

The skin of the unripe fruit, the leaves, sap and seeds of the papaya are all a source of the enzyme papain, a digestive stimulant that facilitates the digestion of protein[ 200 , 238 ]. The unripe fruit is an especially good source[ 254 ]. Papain can be used internally, especially in the form of the extracted enzyme, to treat digestive disorders[ 238 ]. It is also applied externally to aid the healing of deep or slow-healing wounds[ 238 ]. An infusion of the young, latex-filled, green fruit is used as a children's vermifuge[ 348 ]. The juice of the fruit is used to treat diabetes and hypertension[ 348 ]. The immature fruit, sometimes combined with aspirin, is used as an abortifacient[ 348 ]. The fruit pulp is mixed with fat in a pomade to remedy abscesses[ 348 ]; The juice of the fruit is used to dissolve warts[ 348 ]. The leaves and the fruit, especially the unripe fruit, are taken internally in the treatment of a range of digestive disorders, diarrhoea, high blood pressure and painful womb[ 254 , 348 ]. The green leaves are cooked as a treatment for tertiary malaria and for irregular bowel movement in children[ 348 ]. Externally, the leaves are applied to wounds as a dressing that helps to speed the healing process[ 254 ]. The leaves and seeds are used locally to rid the body of threadworms and roundworms[ 238 ]. The seeds are used as a gentle purgative to rid the body of worms[ 254 ]. Immature seeds are swallowed to treat diarrhoea[ 311 ]. The seed is eaten as a children's vermifuge, and also to increase visual acuity[ 348 ]. The latex from the trunk of the tree has a strong purgative action when taken internally and is sometimes used to rid the body of worms[ 254 ]. The latex is applied externally to wounds, boils, ulcers, warts and cancerous tumours in order to speed their healing[ 254 ]. It is also applied to the gums to treat toothache[ 348 ]. The ripe fruit is a mild laxative[ 254 ]. A decoction of the ripe fruit is used to treat persistent diarrhoea and dysentery in children[ 254 ]. An infusion of the flowers is drunk in order to induce menstruation, and also to treat laryngitis, bronchitis and venereal diseases[ 254 , 348 ]. The flowers are used in combination with milk and butter as an appetite stimulant[ 348 ]. The bark is used to treat diarrhoea[ 348 ]. The inner bark is used to treat toothache[ 311 ]. The root is aphrodisiac, astringent and vermifuge[ 348 ]. The macerated root is used in the treatment of gonorrhoea[ 348 ]. An infusion of the root in alcohol is used to treat bladder and kidney problems[ 348 ]. A decoction is drunk to treat abdominal stricture, diarrhoea, malaria and intestinal worms[ 348 ]. Applied externally, an infusion of the root in alcohol is rubbed on the limbs to treat rickets[ 348 ]. A decoction of the root is used externally to treat abdominal stricture[ 348 ]. The latex contains the protein-degrading (proteolytic) and mucolytic enzymes papain and chymopapain[ 348 ]. The plant contains hydrocyanic acid, carpaine, terpene hydrocarbons, terpene alcohols, cyanogenic glycosides[ 348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Fibre  Insecticide  Mulch  Parasiticide  Soap

Other uses rating: Medium (3/5). Agroforestry Uses: Young leaves are used as mulch[ 418 ]. Other Uses The dried leaves can be beaten in water to form a soap substitute[ 298 ]. Papain, found in its greatest concentration in the latex in the skin of unripe fruits, has a multitude of uses. It is added to cosmetic skin creams, termite control, used in clarifying beer, degumming natural silk etc[ 200 , 418 ]. A fibre obtained from the plant can be up to 150cm long, but it is of questionable utility[ 454 ]. The whitish or pale yellow wood is very soft, very lightweight, and fleshy. There is a large white pith, and the centre of the trunk is hollow except at nodes. The wood is not used[ 447 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Papaya succeeds in tropical and subtropical areas, where it can be found between 32°N and S. It produces best at elevations below 900 metres, though it can also succeed as high as 2,100 metres near the equator[ 335 , 418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 21 - 30°c, but can tolerate 12 - 44°c[ 418 ]. It can be killed by temperatures of -1°c or lower[ 418 ]. It prefers a climate with well distributed rainfall and a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 2,500mm, but tolerates 1,000 - 3,000mm[ 200 , 335 , 418 ]. Low temperatures cause smaller fruit size and low quality. Prefers a sunny position in a deep, humus- rich soil[ 296 ]. Requires a well-drained, well-aerated soil, trees can die within a few days if the soil becomes waterlogged[ 200 ]. Grows best in a position sheltered from strong winds[ 200 ]. Plants produce masses of easily damaged feeding roots near the surface and so are best hand weeded when young and given a good organic mulch as they grow[ 200 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 4.5 - 8[ 418 ]. A very productive plant, it can start to crop when only 6 months old and can produce fruit all year round[ 296 ]. Yields of between 22 - 56 tonnes/ha of fresh fruit are obtained in Hawaii and yields up to 80 tones/ha have been reported. The yields are highest in the second and third year and they then decline rapidly[ 418 ]. The productive life of a tree is very short, yields have declined sharply by the time it is four years old[ 418 ]. There are many named varieties[ 46 , 200 , 296 ]. Individual plants can bear only male flowers, only female flowers or hermaphrodite flowers. One male plant will be enough to fertilize 6 or more females[ 296 ]. Hand pollinated fruits ripen after about 150 - 240 days[ 418 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as ripe in a position in indirect light. Germination takes 2 - 6 weeks at 24 - 30°c[ 200 ]. Move to a sunny position about 2 weeks after germination. Greenwood cuttings. Grafting.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Papaya or Carica papaya otherwise known as Mam‹o or Melon Tree. Other Names: Ai-dila, Alola, Amapaapali, Babaya, Babbaay, Boppayi, Chipapayi, Delolo, Du du, 'Esu, Gaslabu, Keinabbu, Kepaya, Ketela, Ma-la-ko, Malagoh, Malaka, Mamao, Manioko, Mbabayu, Maoli uto, Mewa, Mpapai, Mulola, Oleti, Ololo, Papaali, Papaeira, Papaia, Papeeta, Papita, Pappaiya, Pappali, Parangi-mara, Pepaya, Pepol, Pai-pai, Te mwemweara, Weleti.

NORTHERN AMERICA: Mexico, Chihuahua, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Baja California Sur, Aguascalientes, Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México, Michoacán de Ocampo, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, Yucatán, SOUTHERN AMERICA: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Ficus caricaFig, Edible fig, Fig CommonTree6.0 6-10 MLMHNDM422
Vasconcellea x heilborniiBabacoTree2.0 10-12 MLMHNM400

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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