Moringa oleifera L

Moringa oleifera L. (Moringa) known as Murunga, Horseradish tree, Murungakai and Drumstick tree is a fast-growing, drought resistant, perennial plant, native to northwestern India and belongs to the family of Moringaceae. Young seed, pods and leaves of Moringa are considered as a nutritional powerhouse due to its rich source of certain macro and micro nutrients which have great importance in human health and nutrition. Hence, it is called as a “Miracle Tree.” (Ndhlala et al., 2014)
Moringa grows at elevations from sea level to approximately 1400 m and prefers generally sand or gravel and often low in organic matter. It is ideally grown in the Dry Zone, where the temperature is high. It frequently cultivated in tropical and subtropical countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaya, Philippine Islands and East Africa. In Sri Lanka, it often grows in the dry zone especially in Kalpitiya, Jaffna, Mannar, Puttalam, Monaragala, Mahiyanganaya and Hambantota. (Perera et al., 2017; Rathnayake and Navarathna, 2017). Although moringa is a valuable plant with full of health benefits, it is restricted the extension of moringa over the country by the climatic changes in different regions.
Rann murunga (local variety), Jaffna, Chavakachcheri, Chem, Kadu, Palmurungai, Periyakulam 1 (PKM 1) are commonly grown in Sri Lanka (Anon, 2017; Rathnayake and Navarathna, 2017). Superior varieties shows specific characteristics include wide and dark green leaves, bushy habit and rapid regeneration after trimming. Moringa can plant either by High Density Mono-cropping or intercropping with other crops. (Anon., 2017)
Moringa oleifera is a medium size evergreen or deciduous slender plant which can reach heights up to 12 m and a trunk with a diameter of 45 cm. Flowers are bisexual and have unequal, thin veined yellow-white color five petals. Although flowering generally occurs from January to April, it can be differ according to the variety and regions. The bark has a whitish gray color covered with thick cork. Young shoots are tomentose which have purplish or greenish hairy bark. The pods are hanging, greenish light brown colored, linear three-sided capsule shaped pods with beaked at both ends and is approximately 1cm in diameter and about 20-50 cm long. Seeds are dark brown, with 3 papery wings (Haldar and Kosankar, 2017). The tree has drooping, breakable branches which formed open crown and the tri-pinnate leaves with many small leaflets (Imohiosen et al., 2014).
M.oleifera has a remarkable value as a low-cost and sustainable source protein and micronutrients for human consumption. Therefore, it can be applied as a suitable source for combating protein and malnutrition existing in the developing countries. (Liyanage et al., 2014) Leaves, green pods, flowers and roots of Moringa are used as vegetable, animal fodder and plant growth enhancers. (Nouman et al., 2014). The dried leaf powder can be added as a nutritional supplement to any kind of meal (Anon, 2017). Further, Moringa can be used as a spice (mainly roots) and seeds can be used in cosmetic oil production (Rebecca et al., 2006).
Moringa has been known in traditional and Ayurveda medicine worldwide as having value both as a preventative and treatment agent of various health conditions, including the treatment of inflammation, infectious diseases, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematological and hepatorenal disorders (Ndhlala et al., 2014).
Even though various studies have been carried out on Moringa species, there are few or no experimental studies regarding the geographical distribution on Moringa oleifera in Sri Lanka. This study will be carried out as systematic survey on M.oleifera exists in different agro-climatic regions in Sri Lanka and to select the superior quality Moringa species or variety/varieties by means of phytochemical, physio-chemical and antioxidant activities.