Habitat and Adaptation

This is a very hot, dry, and windy environment, and this Noni tree is thriving in this crack of a lava rock.

 Morinda citrifolia, or noni, is native to Indonesia, Australia and is found throughout the tropics in a wide variety of environments. The noni is considered an invasive species, but not to the degree that is threatens ecosystems. Even though in some locations it is considered a weed.

This species can tolerate very acidic, infertile, alkaline soil, and is a very persistent, hard to kill plant that has a high tolerance for wind, fire, flooding and salt. It can withstand drought for six months or more. Wild noni can grow in very arid conditions and spend their in entire lives in perpetual drought.  Noni can also withstand flooding for long periods of time. Seawater, even with the high levels of salinity, is thought to be beneficial to the noni due to the minerals the seawater contains. Noni have been found in many harsh environments and soil conditions, such as basaltic lava flows, coral atolls, solution pits, or brackish tide pools; Noni are usually one of the first plants to colonize these harsh and unfavorable environments.  

Because noni are found across such a large range, it is probably that noni seeds are spread around by water, birds, and fruit bats. Not to mention noni can be found in rather odd locations. For example, a noni tree was found on the top of an old Japanese communications tower on the Micronesian Islands from WWII.       

Nonis are associated with a wide variety of coastal vegetation, such as bananas, Musa genus; papaya, Carica papaya; palm trees; coconuts, Cocos nucifera, and betel nut palms, Areca catechu; hibiscus, Hibiscus genus; and many others.

Morinda Adaptation

Noni from different places have different characteristics, and even though M. citrifolia is grouped with the species from Aulstralia, it's actually very widespread. Morinda citrifolia is closely related to Morinda reticulata, also known as the Mapoon Bush. Although it tastes delicious, M. reticulata can absorb high amounts of selenium and can be poisonous to animals and humans that consume it.


Morinda citrifolia seems to be closely related to species restricted to Australia and Borneo which may indicate that M. citrifolia may have evolved in Australia or Borneo and was distributed via ocean currents or birds. Morinda citrifolia  seems to have adapted the ability to colonize new islands and terrain, such as lava flows. Because they can colonize new terrain relatively quickly it is suspected that they can self-pollinate. It is hypothesized that this self pollinating means that M. citrifoia is just a long line of individuals that accumulated mutational changes as they moved from island to island. So variation within the species represents individual variation instead of species variation. (To learn more Click Here)

Three Intra-species of Morinda citrifolia

Morinda citrifolia
var. citrifolia is the most abundant in the Pacific region and most used for medicinal purposes. This is a morphological diversity group with no unique distinctiveness to any of these sub-species. This sub-species has both large fruit with oval leaves and small fruit with elongated leaves.

Morinda citrifolia
var. bracteata is a small-fruited variety most commonly found in Indonesia and India.

Morinda citrifolia
var. "Potteri" is more of an ornamental plant that agricultural. With green and white leaves and a dry fruit, this subspecies is more decorative.

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