Mangoian History (P4P*)

It’s nearly magnificent mango season. We have two mango trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens, both in the middle part of the gardens towards Farm Cove. I can’t recall ever seeing fruit on them, for which we can thank our local possums.

Mangoes have been in cultivation for so long (about 4000 years) we can’t say for certain where they first came from. It’s most likely they are native to somewhere like Burma or southern India.

Mangoes were grown commercially in North America by the 1860s and came to Australian horticulture soon after. In the later part of the nineteenth century mangoes were imported from India to Australia at Bowen, just north of the Whitsundays in Queensland. Seeds from these fruits were planted locally and by the late 1880s there was an orchard called ‘Kensington’ providing fruit for the local market.

Mangoes were growing closer to hand. Charles Moore was apparently growing fruiting trees in the Gardens as far back as 1852. And when Captain Flinders was circumnavigating Australia in 1803, he stopped off at Timor to eat mangoes among other fruits to help fight off scurvy in his crew.

Mangoes are now grown commercially in tropical and subtropical Australia, in Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland and northern New South Wales. You can get mangoes to fruit in a protected spot to fruit in Sydney, but you have to get them before the possums and fruit flies do.

There are over a thousand different varieties of mango in the world, with about nine commonly grown in Australia. The varieties differ in the fruiting season, skin colour, texture and taste. One of the popular early varieties is Kensington Pride, also known as Bowen, both referring to where mangoes were first grown in Australia.

About 80% of mango trees grown in Australia are this variety, but it is not grown commercially overseas. Apparently Australians have a distinctive taste preference in mangoes. Of course they not only taste good. One mango has 1-3 times the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C and lots of antioxidants, including beta-carotene. No wonder mangoes are the second largest tropical fruit crop in the world, after bananas.

The mango (Mangifera indica) is in the same plant family as pistachio and cashew, as well as poison ivy and the tree widely planted near homesteads in inland Australia, the (South American) Pepper Tree.

If you are planning to save and germinate your mango seed, the Kensington Pride or Bowen will grow true to form, but for most mangoes grafted plants produce fruit sooner. And that should keep you and the possums happy.

Image: Part of a giant Mango tree in Sandakan, Borneo.

*This Passion for Plants posting will also appear on the ABC Sydney website (possibly under 'gardening'), and is the gist of my radio interview with Simon Marnie on Saturday Morning sometime between 9-10 am on 702AM.


Chris said…
Hello fellow mango planter! I heard the Guimaras mangoes are among the best. I'm not sure what variety they are though.

I don't think we have possums either. Nasty looking animals.
Tim Entwisle said…
Don't know the Guimaras mangoes but seems that each region has it's own favourites. As for possums, more pesty than nasty!
Chris said…
I didn't know what they looked like. I associate them with moles and beavers. Turned out to be scary little beasts when I Googled them.