Origin and Distribution

Native to southern Asia, especially eastern India, Burma, and the Andaman Islands, the mango has been cultivated, praised and even revered in its homeland since Ancient times. Buddhist monks are believed to have taken the mango on voyages to Malaya and eastern Asia in the 4th and 5th Centuries B.C. The Persians are said to have carried it to East Africa about the 10th Century A.D. It was commonly grown in the East Indies before the earliest visits of the Portuguese who apparently introduced it to West Africa early in the 16th Century and also into Brazil. After becoming established in Brazil, the mango was carried to the West Indies, being first planted in Barbados about 1742 and later in the Dominican Republic. It reached Jamaica about 1782 and, early in the 19th Century, reached Mexico from the Philippines and the West Indies.

In 1833, Dr. Henry Perrine shipped seedling mango plants from Yucatan to Cape Sable at the southern tip of mainland Florida but these died after he was killed by Indians. Seeds were imported into Miami from the West Indies by a Dr. Fletcher in 1862 or 1863. From these, two trees grew to large size and one was still fruiting in 1910 and is believed to have been the parent of the ‘No. 11’ which was commonly planted for many years thereafter. In 1868 or 1869, seeds were planted south of Coconut Grove and the resultant trees prospered at least until 1909, producing the so-called ‘Peach’ or ‘Turpentine’ mango which became fairly common. In 1872, a seedling of ‘No. 11’ from Cuba was planted in Bradenton. In 1877 and 1879, W.P. Neeld made successful plantings on the west coast but these and most others north of Ft. Myers were killed in the January freeze of 1886.

In 1885, seeds of the excellent ‘Bombay’ mango of India were brought from Key West to Miami and resulted in two trees which flourished until 1909. Plants of grafted varieties were brought in from India by a west coast resident, Rev. D.G. Watt, in 1885 but only two survived the trip and they were soon frozen in a cold spell. Another unsuccessful importation of inarched trees from Calcutta was made in 1888. Of six grafted trees that arrived from Bombay in 1889, through the efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture, only one lived to fruit nine years later. The tree shipped is believed to have been a ‘Mulgoa’ (erroneously labeled ‘Mulgoba’, a name unknown in India except as originating in Florida). However, the fruit produced did not correspond to ‘Mulgoa’ descriptions. It was beautiful, crimson-blushed, just under 1 lb (454 g) with golden-yellow flesh. No Indian visitor has recognized it as matching any Indian variety. Some suggest that it was the fruit of the rootstock if the scion had been frozen in the freeze of 1894-95. At any rate, it continued to be known as ‘Mulgoba’, and it fostered many off-spring along the southeastern coast of the State and in Cuba and Puerto Rico, though it proved to be very susceptible to the disease, anthracnose, in this climate. Seeds from this tree were obtained and planted by a Captain Haden in Miami. The trees fruited some years after his death and his widow gave the name ‘Haden’ to the tree that bore the best fruit. This variety was regarded as the standard of excellence locally for many decades thereafter and was popular for shipping because of its tough skin.

George B. Cellon started extensive vegetative propagation (patch-budding) of the ‘Haden’ in 1900 and shipped the fruits to northern markets. P.J. Wester conducted many experiments in budding, grafting and inarching from 1904 to 1908 with less success. Shield-budding on a commercial scale was achieved by Mr. Orange Pound of Coconut Grove in 1909 and this was a pioneer breakthrough which gave strong impetus to mango growing, breeding, and dissemination.

Enthusiastic introduction of other varieties by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry, by nurserymen, and other individuals followed, and the mango grew steadily in popularity and importance. The Reasoner Brothers Nursery, on the west coast, imported many mango varieties and was largely responsible for the ultimate establishment of the mango in that area, together with a Mr. J.W. Barney of Palma Sola who had a large collection of varieties and had worked out a feasible technique of propagation which he called “slot grafting”.

Dr. Wilson Popenoe, one of the early Plant Explorers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, became Director of the Escuela Agricola Panamericana, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. For more than a quarter of a century, he was a leader in the introduction and propagation of outstanding mangos from India and the East Indies, had them planted at the school and at the Lancetilla Experiment Station at Tela, Honduras, and distributed around tropical America.

In time, the mango became one of the most familiar domesticated trees in dooryards or in small or large commercial plantings throughout the humid and semi-arid lowlands of the tropical world and in certain areas of the near-tropics such as the Mediterranean area (Madeira and the Canary Islands), Egypt, southern Africa, and southern Florida. Local markets throughout its range are heaped high with the fragrant fruits in season and large quantities are exported to non-producing countries.

Altogether, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made 528 introductions from India, the Philippines, the West Indies and other sources from 1899 to 1937. Selection, naming and propagation of new varieties by government agencies and individual growers has been going on ever since. The Mango Form was created in 1938 through the joint efforts of the Broward County Home Demonstration Office of the University of Florida’s Cooperative Extension Service and the Fort Lauderdale Garden Club, with encouragement and direction from the University of Florida’s Subtropical Experiment Station (now the Agricultural Research and Education Center) in Homestead, and Mrs. William J. Krome, a pioneer tropical fruit grower. Meetings were held annually, whenever possible, for the exhibiting and judging of promising seedlings, and exchanging and publication of descriptions and cultural information.

Meanwhile, a reverse flow of varieties was going on. Improved mangos developed in Florida have been of great value in upgrading the mango industry in tropical America and elsewhere.

With such intense interest in this crop, mango acreage advanced in Florida despite occasional setbacks from cold spells and hurricanes. But with the expanding population, increased land values and cost and shortage of agricultural labor after World War II, a number of large groves were subdivided into real estate developments given names such as “Mango Heights” and “Mango Terrace”. There were estimated to be 7,000 acres (2,917 ha) in 27 Florida counties in 1954, over half in commercial groves. There were 4,000 acres (1,619 ha) in 1961. Today, mango production in Florida, on approximately 1,700 acres (688 ha), is about 8,818 tons (8,000 MT) annually in “good” years, and valued at $3 million. Fruits are shipped not only to northern markets but also to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France and Saudi Arabia. In advance of the local season, quantities are imported into the USA from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and, throughout the summer, Mexican sources supply mangos to the Pacific Coast consumer. Supplies also come in from India and Taiwan.

A mango seed from Guatemala was planted in California about 1880 and a few trees have borne fruit in the warmest locations of that state, with careful protection when extremely low temperatures occur.

Mangos have been grown in Puerto Rico since about 1750 but mostly of indifferent quality. A program of mango improvement began in 1948 with the introduction and testing of over 150 superior cultivars by the University of Puerto Rico. The south coast of the island, having a dry atmosphere, is best suited for mango culture and substantial quantities of mangos are produced there without the need to spray for anthracnose control. The fruits are plentiful on local markets and shipments are made to New York City where there are many Puerto Rican residents. A study of 16 cultivars was undertaken in 1960 to determine those best suited to more intense commercial production. Productivity evaluations started in 1965 and continued to 1972.

The earliest record of the mango in Hawaii is the introduction of several small plants from Manila in 1824. Three plants were brought from Chile in 1825. In 1899, grafted trees of a number of Indian varieties, including ‘Pairi’, were imported. Seedlings became widely distributed over the six major islands. In 1930, the ‘Haden’ was introduced from Florida and became established in commercial plantations. The local industry began to develop seriously after the importation of a series of monoembryonic cultivars from Florida. But Hawaiian mangos are prohibited from entry into mainland USA, Australia, Japan and some other countries, because of the prevalence of the mango seed weevil in the islands.

In Brazil, most mangos are produced in the state of Minas, Gerais where the crop amounts to 243,018 tons (22,000 MT) annually on 24,710 acres (10,000 ha). These are mainly seedlings, as are those of the other states with major mango crops–Ceará, Paraibá, Goias, Pernambuco, and Maranhao. Sao Paulo raises about 63,382 tons (57,500 MT) per year on 9,884 acres (4,000 ha). The bulk of the crop is for domestic consumption. In 1973, Brazil exported 47.4 tons (43 MT) of mangos to Europe.

Mango growing began with the earliest settlers in North Queensland, Australia, with seeds brought casually from India, Ceylon, the East Indies and the Philippines. In 1875, 40 varieties from India were set out in a single plantation. Over the years, selections have been made for commercial production and culture has extended to subtropical Western Australia.

There is no record of the introduction of the mango into South Africa but a plantation was set out in Durban about 1860. Production today probably has reached about 16,535 tons (15,000 MT) annually, and South Africa exports fresh mangos by air to Europe.

Kenya exports mature mangos to France and Germany and both mature and immature to the United Kingdom, the latter for chutney-making. Egypt produces 110,230 tons (100,000 MT) of mangos annually and exports moderate amounts to 20 countries in the Near East and Europe. Mango culture in the Sudan occupies about 24,710 acres (10,000 ha) producing a total of 66,138 tons (60,000 MT) per year.

India, with 2,471,000 acres (1,000,000 ha) of mangos (70% of its fruit-growing area) produces 65% of the world’s mango crop–9,920,700 tons (9,000,000 MT). In 1985, mango growers around Hyderabad sought government protection against terrorists who cut down mango orchards unless the owners paid ransom (50,000 rupees in one case). India far outranks all other countries as an exporter of processed mangos, shipping 2/3 of the total 22,046 tons (20,000 MT). Mango preserves go to the same countries receiving the fresh fruit and also to Hong Kong, Iraq, Canada and the United States. Following India in volume of exports are Thailand, 774,365 tons (702,500 MT), Pakistan and Bangladesh, followed by Brazil. Mexico ranks 5th with about 100,800 acres (42,000 ha) and an annual yield of approximately 640,000 tons (580,000 MT). The Philippines have risen to 6th place. Tanzania is 7th, the Dominican Republic, 8th and Colombia, 9th.

Leading exporters of fresh mangos are: the Philippines, shipping to Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan; Thailand, shipping to Singapore and Malaysia; Mexico, shipping mostly ‘Haden’ to the United States, 2,204 tons (2,000 MT), annually, also to Japan and Paris; India, shipping mainly ‘Alphonso’ and ‘Bombay’ to Europe, Malaya, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; Indonesia, shipping to Hong Kong and Singapore; and South Africa shipping (60% ‘Haden’ and ‘Kent’) by air to Europe and London in mid-winter.

Chief importers are England and France, absorbing 82% of all mango shipments. Mango consumers in England are mostly residents of Indian origin, or English people who formerly lived in India.

The first International Symposium on Mango and Mango Culture, of the International Society for Horticultural Science, was held in New Delhi, India, in 1969 with a view to assembling a collection of germplasm from around the world and encouraging cooperative research on rootstocks and bearing behavior, hybridization, disease, storage and transport problems, and other areas of study.

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One Response to Origin and Distribution

  1. Dennis Brown September 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    This is an excellent article on my favorite fruit, provided by one of the nicest mango sales outlet on PI!! My opinion only!

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