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Carica papaya L.

Carica papaya L.





Vernacular Names


Papaya, betik, ketalah.


Papaya, pawpaw, melon tree.


Papaya, gedang (Sundanese), kates (Javanese).


Papaya, kapaya, lapaya.




Lhong, doeum lahong.




Malakor (Central), loko (Peninsular), ma kuai thet (Northern).


Du du.


Papayier, arbre de melon.

Geographical Distributions

The genus Carica L. is indigenous to tropical America and the papaya must have originated from natural hybridisation involving C. peltata Hook. & Arn. from tropical America, it was brought to the Caribbean and Southeast Asia during the Spanish exploration in the 16th Century. It then spread rapidly to India, Oceania, Africa, and today it is widely distributed throughout the tropical and warmer subtropical areas of the world.


Carica papaya is a fast-growing tree-like herb that can grow up to 2-10 m tall. It is usually unbranched but sometimes branched due to injury and contains white latex in all parts. The stem is cylindrical, measures 10 cm in diametre, hollow with prominent leaf scars and spongy-fibrous tissue.

The leaves are spirally arranged and clustered near apex of trunk. The petiole is up to 1 m long, hollow, greenish or purplish-green, with orbicular lamina, measures 25-75 cm in diametre, palmately and deeply 7-11-lobed, hairless, prominently veined, deeply lobed and broadly toothed.

The flowers are male, female or hermaphrodite, axillary and found on separate trees. Male flowers are in panicles, measure 25-100 cm long, pendent and sessile. The sepal is cup-shaped, small and 5-toothed. The petal is trumpet-shaped, measures 2.5 cm long, with 5 spreading lobes and light yellow. There are 10 stamens which are in 2 whorls alternating with the petal lobes. Female flowers are solitary or in few-flowered cymes, and measure 3.5-5 cm long. Its sepal is cup-shaped, measures 3-4 cm long, with 5 narrow teeth and yellow-green. The 5 petals are almost free. They are lance-shaped, twisted, fleshy and yellow. The ovary is 2-3 cm long, ovoid-oblong, with central cavity and numerous ovules. The 5 stigmas are fan-shaped, sessile and deeply 5-cleft. There are 2 types of hermaphrodite flowers. The first 'elongata' type is with flowers in short-peduncled clusters, partially united petals, 10 stamens in 2 series and elongated ovary. For 'pentandria' type, flowers are similar to female flowers but with 5 stamens. Intermediate flowers occur as well, in which stamens become carpelloid that produce irregular fruits. Proportion and type of flowers produced may vary on the same tree depending on age and environmental conditions.

The fruit is a fleshy berry, ovoid-oblong to nearly spherical, or pear-shaped, cylindrical or grooved, measures 7-30 cm long and weighs up to 10 kg. It is with thin skin, smooth, yellowish or orange in ripe fruit, edible, sweet with mild pleasant flavour and with 5-angled central cavity. The seeds are spherical, measure 5 mm in diametre, black or greyish, numerous, attached in 5 rows to interior wall of ovary and enclosed in a gelatinous seed coat.

Ecology / Cultivation

Carica papaya thrives in warm areas with adequate rainfall and temperature range of 21-33°C. Its altitude range is similar to that of the banana, from sea level up to elevations at which frost occurs (often around 1600 m). Frost can kill the plant, and cool and overcast weather delays fruit ripening and depresses fruit quality. Fruit tastes much better when grown during warm sunny season, but yield can be very high at elevations around 1000 m, which is the altitude for papaya production in East Africa in the 1960s. Evenly distributed annual rainfall of 1200 mm is sufficient if water conservation practices are employed. Plantations should be in sheltered locations or surrounded by windbreaks; strong winds are detrimental, particularly on soils, which cannot make up for large transpiration losses. C. papaya grows best in light, well-drained soils rich in organic matter with soil pH 6.0-6.5. It can tolerate any kind of soil provided it is well-drained and not too dry. The roots are very sensitive to water logging and even short periods of flooding can kill the plants.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.2: Edible fruits and nuts.


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