In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Characters of Caricaceae 2. Distribution of Caricaceae 3. Economic Importance.
Characters of Caricaceae:
A. Vegetative characters:
Presence of latex, unbranched stiff trunks, terminal crown of leaves, monoecious or dioecious; gamopetalous corolla; 5 or 10 stamens; unsual floral polymorphism.
Plants are small or medium trees or shrubs, very rarely herbs with latex, monoecious or dioecious.
Soft-wooded, trunks unbranched, rarely branched, rarely climbing e.g., Mocinna heteroplyta, thin barked with a crown of leaves.
Large, long, petioled, alternate, simple-with lobed or entire lamina and exstipulate.
B. Floral characters:
Pendant raceme or corymb, multiflowered.
Unisexual or bisexual, or polygamous, actinomorphic and hypogynous.
According to Bailey flowers are of four types:
(i) Staminate sessile;
(ii) Pistillate subsessile;
(iii) Long fruited type; and
(iv) Polygamous flowers of two sorts, one of 10 sessile stamens and another with 5 stamens.
Small, rotate, cupular or shortly tubular, teeth or segments long or short; in pistillate flower calyx segments are comparatively longer than that of staminate ones.
In the male or staminate flower it is gamopetalous, tubular or pitcher shaped, the lobes are often produced as oval or linear, corolla in bud twisted or valvate; petals in female flower or pistillate flower free or comate at the base.
Stamens in male flower 10, in two whorls inserted at the throat, bithecous, dorsifixed, connective, often prolonged upwards as ligulate structure, pistil filamentous or absent in male flower.
In pistillate or bisexual flowers carpels 5, united or syncarpous, ovary superior, unilocular, parietal placentation, ovules many, anatropous; style short, terminating into five partite linear or each of which bipartite or irregularly brached stigmas.
Berry, large, many seeded, one celled with large cavity inside.
Oval, ellipsoid, more or less compressed, sometimes, smooth or tubuled or spiny.
Distribution of Caricaceae:
Caricaceae has 4 genera and about 40 species, mainly distributed in tropical America & Africa, Carica papaya L. is grown all over India and now has become quite naturalised.
Economic Importance of Caricaceae:
The fruit of Carica papaya L. is sweet, edible and is known as ‘Papaya’ or ‘Papaw’. Carica candicans (Peru). C. chrysophila (colmbia) and C. pentagyna (Ecuador) are cultivated for their edible pericarp or sweet, juicy seed envelopes. The fruits of Jacaratia mexicana and Jarilla caudata are eaten in the Andes. The Latex of unripe fruits is used in chewing gum.
A medicinal compound ‘Papain’ is obtained from the fruits of C. papaya.
Common plants of the family:
1. Carica papaya L. Eng. Papaya; Vern Papita-Chiefly cultivated for fruits.
2. Jacaratia – tree with spiny stem.