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These are shrubs and medium-sized trees (up to 18 m heigh), native to tropical America, the West Indies, tropical Africa, Madagascar, tropical Asia, China and even New Caledonia. But most authors consider Genipa a genus of the New World.
The ten species from Madagascar, (originally) described by Drake, are referred to as Genipa sense Drake. They do not belong to the subtribe Gardeniinae , as the New World Genipas. Indeed, five of them belong in the tribe Octotropideae. The genipas sense Drake may actually belong to the South African genus Hyperacanthus
Its name is derived from genipapo, the Guiana name for one of its species. It is also commonly called 'xagua, xaqua, or jagua.
The tree bark is mostly a smooth gray. The dense foliage consists of opposite leaves that are sessile or with short peduncles. They are mostly clustered at the tips of the branches. The leathery leaves have an oblanceolate, elliptic or obovate shape. The ovate and acuminate stipules are interpetiolar, fused at base.
The inflorescence is axillary or terminal. The flowers are solitary or few in a cyme. They are at first white or creamy-white, but turn yellow later on. The flowers are sexually dimorphic; they can be bisexual or functionally unisexual. The male flowers ripen before the female flowers. The short, tubular calyx has five or six small lobes. The bell-shaped corolla consists of five symmetrical left-contorted oblong petals, rounded at their apex. The stamens lie between the corolla lobes, exserting for half their length. The style projects beyond the corolla. The inferior ovary is 2-locular, with many ovules per locule. The fruit is a succulent berry with a thick rind, the size of a small lime.
This species is closely allied to Gardenia. Several Gardenia species were originally named as Genipa species.
Genipa americana is cultivated for its edible fuit, which are made into drinks, jelly, sherbet and used in ice cream. It is also useful for treatment of candiru attacks. South American Indians bathe their legs in the clear liquid obtained from the fruit. The liquid has a stringent effect. Furthermore it stains the skin black. These stains disappear after about a fortnight. As South Americans Indians went into battle, they used to paint themselves with Genipa juice and anatto .
The leaves of Genipa americana are a food source for the caterpillars of the Fadus Sphinx (Aellopos fadus)
- Genipa americana L. : Jagua
- Genipa americana var. caruto K.Schum.
- Genipa americana f. grandifolia Chodat & Hassl.
- Genipa americana f. jorgensenii Steyerm.
- Genipa americana f. parvifolia Chodat & Hassl.
- Genipa americana var. riobranquensis Kuhlm.
- Genipa barbata Presl
- Genipa brasiliana A.Rich.
- Genipa buffalina Lour.
- Genipa caruto H.B. & K
- Genipa cinerea Fernald
- Genipa clusiifolia Griseb. : Seven-year Apple
- Genipa codonocalyx Standl.
- Genipa curviflora Dwyer
- Genipa excelsa K.Krause
- Genipa exosolenia Drake ( in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa flava Lour.
- Genipa humilis Vell.
- Genipa infundibuliformis Zappi & J.Semir
- Genipa lastelliana Drake (in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa madagascariensis Drake (in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa maxonii Standl.
- Genipa merianae Rich.
- Genipa oblongifolia Ruiz & Pav.
- Genipa oleosa Rojas
- Genipa perieri Drake (in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa pervillei Drake (in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa poivrei Drake (in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa pubescens DC.
- Genipa ravinensis Baill. ex Drake (in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa rutenbergiana Baill. ex Vatke
- Genipa spruceana Steyerm.
- Genipa striiflora DC.
- Genipa talangnignia Drake (in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa tubulosa Baill. ex Drake (in Hyperacanthus ?)
- Genipa vaginata Baill.
- Genipa venosa Standl.
- Genipa vulcanicola Standl.
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