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Duppies, Cheeseshrubs, and Noni Juice

25 Feb

Morinda royoc

Rubiaceae

Want to spend twenty bucks on a highly touted bottle of odd-tasting health-promoting antioxidant juice?  Then Noni Juice is your oyster.  Probably based in limited truth and enhanced by volcanoes of hype, the ancient Polynesians had a thing for Noni.  Hawaii is the epicenter for Noni Juice now, and the tree (Morinda citrifolia) is grown in other tropical climates, a lot in the Caribbean, and a little in Florida.  We tried one at PBSC but Jack Frost murdered it.  The Caribbean name for the tree, “Duppy Apple,” refers to the similarity between the lumpy white fruit and a lumpy white ghost, a duppy.

The possibility that Noni is good for you is not far-fetched, although I have no idea of any underlying science.    In the Caribbean the species serves for alleged analgesic properties, like an aspirin.  And that rings plausible.  Noni belongs to the drug-laden Coffee Family, the Rubiaceae, from which one drug, caffeine, makes me feel painless at 6 am every day.  Fact is, the Rubiaceae is a hotspot of alkaloids and bioactivity.

Is Noni a Florida native?  No, but we have our own close relative, Morinda royoc, which is similar, except for being more of a vine than a tree, and being  smaller in all dimensions.  Although not sold in bottles with a Polynesian motif, Morinda royoc  has its own place in traditional medicines to the point of having local populations abused by collectors.  Uses for Morinda royoc extend from lumbago to scurvy.  (Today’s vocabulary lesson: antiscorbutic.)  Echoing Noni, pain relief receives prominent mention.  Morinda  royoc extracts are sort of a mild “revitalizing” stimulant, in a coffee-ish sort of fashion.

Morinda royoc (by JB)

This plant has oodles of so-called common names, none of which I’ve ever heard anybody apply seriously: cheese shrub (they say from the odor of the fermenting fruits), mouse pineapple (the fruit resembles a  mini-pineapple),  Redgal, Indian Mulberry, and an anatomically descriptive handle we’ll modify for polite blogging as “Low Budget Viagra Shrub.”

You don’t see Cheese Shrub often.  It is sort of an unpretentious clambering semi-shrub-semi-vine in coastal hammocks, often on dunes immediately overlooking the sea.  The vine is related to, resembles, and hangs around literally with Snowberry (Chiococca alba).  The leaves are opposite, often a little yellowish, and provided usefully (for identification) with a stipule between the bases.  The star-shaped white flowers are clustered in the constellation that will become the bumpy mouse pineapple, which eventually matures orange.  The fruit is a natural sea-dispersal pod—tough, thick, padded, and with built-in hollow floats.

Mouse Pineapples (not quite ripe, by JB)

We have a tissue culture lab at PBSC, and a protocol for micropropagation has been published, so with much patience and optimism we’re going to dry to grow our own little Redgal, whatever that means.

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3 Comments

Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Morinda royoc

 

Tags: , ,

3 responses to “Duppies, Cheeseshrubs, and Noni Juice

  1. Xochilt Hernandez

    February 27, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I have tried Noni juice in my country (Nicaragua) and it taste is not palatable, the color of this juice is dark green, it’s like you are drinking plenty of blended herbs. But they say it is good for cancer, diabetes, it is antioxidant, and many others benefits.

     
    • George Rogers

      February 27, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks Xochilt…I’ve not tried it, for one reason—the price.

       
  2. Steve

    March 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    There is a population of Morinda royoc in my neck of the woods that is pubescent! Majority of populations are glabrous, and can be weedy in the landscape. I’ve never concocted anything from it though.

     

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