MEET A MANGO TREE
THE AMAZING MANGO TREE (MANGIFERA INDICA) IS MUCH MORE THAN JUST A SOURCE FOR MANGOS. IT’S A BEAUTIFUL, LIVING THING THAT GIVES BACK SO MUCH TO THE PLANET AND THE PEOPLE WHO TEND IT.
The mango tree grows in tropical climates. Extended exposure to temperatures below 30°F can kill or severely damage a mango tree, so in the U.S. they are only able to grow in the southernmost portions of Florida and California. Fortunately, mangos are cultivated all around the tropical regions of the globe so Americans can enjoy the delicious fruit year round.
A mango tree can grow quite large, reaching a height of 100 feet or more with a canopy of 35 feet or more. Mangos in cultivation are generally pruned and kept much smaller for a more manageable harvest. The large leaves are leathery, 5 to 16 inches in length, and remain on the tree for a year or more. Flowers are produced in terminal panicles or clusters 4 to 16 inches long. Each flower is small with white petals and a mild sweet aroma. The flowers are pollinated by insects and less than 1 percent of the flowers will mature to form a fruit. A mango tree in full flower is a beautiful sight indeed.
Certain mangos on each tree will receive more sunlight than others, with some fruit staying shaded within the tree’s canopy. In certain varieties, the mangos that receive the most sunlight will develop a red blush at the stem end. This red blush is not an indicator of maturity, quality or ripeness.
It takes approximately four months for the mangos to mature on the tree before they’re ready for harvest. During that time, the fruit-laden branches of the mango tree may bow under the weight of the developing mangos. Each fruit is harvested by hand, providing jobs for local workers and a safe passage to the packinghouse for the mangos.
The growth of the tree causes a process called carbon sequestration or carbon uptake. The tree absorbs carbon dioxide from the environment, using it to form the trunk, branches, leaves and fruit of the mango tree. The tree produces oxygen and releases it into the environment during this process.
Meanwhile, the process of growing, harvesting and transporting the mangos to the retailer in the U.S. generates greenhouse gases that are released into the environment. Researchers studying both the greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon sequestration of a typical mango tree found some exciting and perhaps surprising results.
In the Mexican states of Nayarit and Sinaloa, the average mango tree could sequester two to two and a half times the carbon that is emitted during growing harvesting and transportation to the U.S. retailer. The average mango tree in the Mexican state of Chiapas could absorb seven times the carbon that is emitted.
The mango tree produces the delicious mango fruit, while absorbing carbon dioxide, producing oxygen and supporting the livelihoods of thousands of workers. It really is the amazing mango tree.