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Papaya tree and fruit, illustration from Koehler's Medicinal Plants, 1887

Papaya tree and fruit, illustration from Koehler's Medicinal Plants , 1887

Eurosiden II
Order : Cruciferous (Brassicales)
Family : Melon trees (Caricaceae)
Genre : Carica
Type : papaya
Scientific name of the  genus
Scientific name of the  species
Carica papaya

Papaya ( Carica papaya ), also known as the melon tree or papaya tree, is the only type of plant genus Carica within the melon tree family (Caricaceae). The wild form occurs from southern Mexico to Costa Rica . The cultivated form is an important tropical crop .

In 2008, papaya was the fifth plant species to have its genome completely sequenced .


Papaya plant with fruits

Vegetative characteristics

This plant is often referred to as a tree because it has a tree-like habit . The papaya is a mighty, mostly unbranched, upright, tree-like plant. The individual "trunk", which - apart from the trachea - does not lignify, reaches heights of growth of 5 to 10 meters. Due to the lack of lignification, the growth form and the longevity, the papaya cannot be called a tree , a shrub or a perennial. Some speak of a "tree-shaped herb".

Papaya leaf

The leaves are arranged in a spiral around the trunk and are shed continuously after a certain time (not in certain times of the year), so that the trunk is bare at the bottom and has a "tuft" of leaves at the top. Leaf scars remain on the trunk . The large leaves are stalked and the leaf blade has a diameter of 50 to 70 cm, they are deeply palmate; mostly in seven lobes.

Generative characteristics

The flowers arise from the leaf axils and are therefore directly on the trunk ( cauliflora ). The flowers are distributed diocesan .

Two halved papayas of different sizes (the black square is 1 cm × 1 cm)
Papaya fruit (berry)

The fruit is elongated-oval, about 15 to 45 cm in length and 10 to 30 cm in diameter and can reach a weight of 3 to 6 kg. In Europe , almost exclusively the Hawaiian or Brazilian papaya comes into the trade, the specimens of which weigh only 0.5 kg.

The skin of the fully ripe berry is yellowish-green, the flesh is light orange to pink and contains black seeds in the middle of the fruit , which are surrounded by a membrane.

Chromosome number

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 18, rarely 36.

Culture form and cultivation areas

Papaya plantation

The culture form of the papaya originally comes from the lowlands and coastal regions of the Neotropics and its name papaya from the language of the Arawak Indians. As early as the beginning of the 16th century, the Spaniards began to plant this type of plant in the Antilles and the Philippines . It is cultivated worldwide in the tropics and subtropics . Important cultivation locations are Australia , India and Central and South America ( Costa Rica , Brazil and others) as well as Africa ( Kenya , Ivory Coast and others).


Papaya seeds with and without a shell

The "seeds" of papaya contain large amounts of papain , a protein-splitting enzyme . They used to be used in folk medicine as a de-wormer and today in powder form as a tenderizer for meat. A similar effect is achieved by wrapping raw meat in the leaves of the papaya tree or soaking it in fresh papaya juice.

Use in the kitchen

Unripe fruits can be processed like vegetables and are used for chutneys , curries and salsas , among other things . In the northeast of Thailand , the Isan and in Laos is Som Tam (in Thai : ส้มตำ , Lao : Tam Mak Hung , IPA : ɗam mak HUN), a (very) spicy salad of unripe fruits in fish sauce pickled crabs and sticky rice , which National dish .

The ripe pulp, on the other hand, tastes sweet , with a little lemon juice and sugar or ginger the taste is enhanced. The kernels of the papaya are also edible; they have a pungent taste that is reminiscent of nasturtiums .

The fruit must have yellowish stripes or spots when you buy it, then it will still ripen completely. The degree of ripeness can be recognized primarily by its firmness: the easier the fruit can be pressed in with the finger, the more ripe it is. It is then characterized by a particularly intense and sweet taste; only the use as decoration can be problematic due to the lack of strength.

Use in medicine

To serve as a drug :

  • Raw papain , Caricae papayae succus (Syn .: Papainum crudum ), the dried milky juice of the unripe fruits.
  • Melon tree leaves, Caricae papayae folium.

Active ingredients

Various proteolytic enzymes are found in raw papain . a. Contain papain and chymopapain A and B. In the leaves, especially polyketide - alkaloids as Carpain , glucosinolates as glucotropaeolin , saponins , papain only in small amounts.


Papain is a protein-splitting enzyme whose action corresponds to that of pepsin in the main cells of the gastric fundus . In contrast to pepsin, it works in the acidic and alkaline range. It is used successfully in ready-to-use preparations for digestive complaints that are primarily due to a decrease in protein digestion, B. be based on a pepsin deficiency. Since the pancreas also produces protein-digesting enzymes ( trypsin , chymotrypsin , elastase ), digestive problems caused by the pancreas can also be alleviated by administration of papa. There are also combination products on the market that promise relief from various types of inflammation, edema and swelling after injuries and operations. The enzymes are supposed to break down inflammatory metabolic products more quickly and improve the blood flow rate. They are used in particular for the accompanying long-term treatment of tumors and during radiation therapy. But this is viewed critically. Contraindications are in particular the tendency to bleed and pregnancy.

By using papain, antibodies can be split into three fractions.

In the food industry, papain is used to tenderize meat.

Isolated chymopapain is used for the injection treatment of disc damage (chemonucleolysis).


100 g papaya contain:

water 88.06 g
protein 0.47 g
fat 0.26 g
carbohydrates 10.82 g
Fiber 1.7 g
Minerals 0.39 g
Minerals amount RDAs
sodium 8 mg 1.45%
potassium 180 mg 9%
magnesium 21 mg 5.6%
Calcium 20 mg 2.5%
manganese 40 µg 2%
iron 250 µg 1.79%
copper 45 µg 4.5%
zinc 80 µg 0.8%
phosphorus 10 mg 1.43%
selenium 0.6 µg 1.09%
Vitamins amount RDAs
Vitamin A 47 µg 5.88%
Vitamin B1 23 µg 2.09%
Vitamin B2 27 µg 1.93%
Vitamin B3 357 µg 2.23%
Vitamin B5 191 µg 3.18%
Vitamin B6 38 µg 2.71%
Folic acid 37 µg 18.5%
Vitamin E. 300 µg 2.5%
vitamin C 60.9 mg 76.13%
glucose 4.09 g
Fructose 3.73 g
Sucrose 0 g
Strength 0 g

Diseases of cultivated plants

In the 1940s, this was the first time in Hawaii papaya ringspot virus (Engl. Papaya ringspot virus PRSV) was observed. The name is derived from the visible signs - dark green rings and spots. Affected plantations experience significant crop failures or even total loss. The virus is transmitted by insects. In the 1990s, Cornell University (New York) and the University of Hawaii developed a virus-resistant transgenic papaya variety with the help of genetic engineering , which has been on the market in the USA since 1999 and has largely solved this problem. After the success in Hawaii, more papayas are being developed in various regions that are resistant to viruses that are spread there.

Economical meaning

In 2018 the world harvest was 13,290,321 tons. The country with the largest papaya production in the world was India, which produced 45.1% of the world's harvest.

The following table gives an overview of the ten largest papaya producers worldwide, who produced a total of 87.2% of the harvest.

Largest papaya producers (2018)
rank country Quantity
(in t )
1 IndiaIndia India 5,989,000
2 BrazilBrazil Brazil 1,060,392
3 MexicoMexico Mexico 1,039,820
4th Dominican RepublicDominican Republic Dominican Republic 1,022,498
5 IndonesiaIndonesia Indonesia 887.591
6th NigeriaNigeria Nigeria 833.038
7th Congo Democratic RepublicDemocratic Republic of Congo Democratic Republic of Congo 213,769
8th VenezuelaVenezuela Venezuela 188,636
9 ColombiaColombia Colombia 183.732
10 CubaCuba Cuba 176,630
remaining countries 1,695,215
world 13,290,321



In 2008 the genome of the genetically modified cultivar 'SunUp' of papaya was sequenced. The papaya genome is used for research into the health value of fruits, evolutionary research and other fundamental questions in biology. In addition, tests are to be developed on the basis of the genome, which can distinguish hermaphrodites from women, which was previously only possible after four months of cultivation. Hermaphrodite plants pollinate more easily.

Transgenic variants

The papaya ring spot virus reduced papaya yields in Hawaii by almost half in the mid-1990s. To prevent further yield losses, a virus-resistant variety of papaya was developed within a short time as part of a research project by the US Department of Agriculture . After the seeds for the new virus-resistant rainbow papaya became available in 1998, the resistant "GM papayas" quickly gained acceptance. Since 1998, "GM papayas" (resistance to Paramyxoviridae virus) have been grown on around 500 hectares in Hawaii , around 60–80 percent of the total papaya acreage; Hawaiian papaya are an important export item and are mainly exported to Japan. There is also the similar "Huanong No.1 Papaya" developed by the South China Agricultural University in China in the Guangdong Province on approx. 10,000 hectares.

Web links

Commons : Papaya ( Carica papaya )  - album containing pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Papaya  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


Individual evidence

  1. F. Carvalho, Susanne S. Renner : A dated phylogeny of the papaya family (Caricaceae) reveals the crop's closest relatives and the family's biogeographic history. In: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution , Volume 65, Issue 1, October 2012, pp. 46-53. doi : 10.1016 / j.ympev.2012.05.019 .
  2. a b c F. Carvalho: e-Monograph of Caricaceae. Version 1, November 2013.
  3. ^ Lieberei, Reisdorff, Franke: Nutzpflanzenkunde. 8th edition, Thieme-Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-13-530408-3 , p. 173.
  4. Papaya on, accessed on April 12, 2017.
  5. ^ Carica papaya at In: IPCN Chromosome Reports . Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.
  6. Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 (PDF) of October 25, 2011.
  7. Nutritional information on USDA ARS on
  8. Virus-resistant transgenic papaya on
  9. AgBioForum - Transgenic Papaya in Hawaii and Beyond (English).
  10. a b Papaya ( Memento from June 27, 2015 in the Internet Archive ).
  11. Crops> Papayas. In: Official FAO production statistics for 2018., accessed on April 20, 2020 .
  12. Ray Ming, Shaobin Hou, Yun Feng, Qingyi Yu et al .: The draft genome of the transgenic tropical fruit tree papaya (Carica papaya Linnaeus) . In: Nature . tape 452 , 2008, p. 991–997 , doi : 10.1038 / nature06856 (English).
  13. ^ Papaya genome project bears fruit. In: Nature News. April 23, 2008.