Papaya – Healthy Fruit Tree

by Dr. Lalith Gunasekera

Scientific name: CARICA PAPAYA
Family: Caricaceae
Common name: papol or galslbu (Sri Lanka), papaya or pawpaw (English and Spanish)

( February 10, 2017, Canberra, Sri Lanka Guardian) Papaya plant was originated in lowlands of Southern Mexico and West Indies (Caribbean) and distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions around the world as a popular fruit plant. Papaya is properly a large herb growing up to 1.8 to 3 m in the first year and can be reached up to 6-9 m in height, with  a hollow green or deep purple stem becoming 30-40 cm or more thick at the base and roughened by leaf scars.

Pic 1: Papaya Plants are growing in a home garden – Mackay

Papaya trunk does not have a bark and don’t have a branches.

Pic 2: Papaya leaves

The leaves emerge directly from the upper part of the stem in a spiral on nearly horizontal petioles 30-105 cm long, hollow, green or purple. The leaf blade deeply divided into 5 to 9 main segments. The life of a leaf is 4-6 months. Both the stem and leaves contain copious white milky latex.


Papayas start flowering when they are about one meter tall. Papaya flowers are fleshy, waxy and slightly fragrant.

There are three basic tree types:

  1. Male plants.
  2. Female plants
  3. Hermaphroditic (bisexual) plants.

Male flowers have long, thin stalks with several small yellow flowers

Pic 3: Male flowers

Female plants are produced large yellow or whitish flowers which possess a larger superior ovary which is held very close to the stem.

Pic 4: Female flowers

Bisexual plants have female and male flowers, ivory white with bright yellow anthers and born on short stalks. Make sure that you have some females or bisexual plants and your garden. The male papayas do not bear fruit. Almost all commercial papaya orchards contain only bisexual plants.

Pic 5: Bisexual plants


Normally the fruit is melon like, oval to nearly round or elongated club shaped, 15-50 cm long and 10-20 cm thick. The fruit skin is waxy and thin but fairly tough. When the fruit is green and hard it is rich in white latex. As it ripens, it becomes light or deep yellow externally and the thick wall of succulent flesh becomes aromatic, yellow, orange or various shades of red. Papayas fruit all year round as long as weather is warm enough.

Papaya is grown from seed. Dry seed can be stored for a year or more in airtight refrigerated containers. Fresh seeds will usually germinate in 10 to 14 days. Germination can be improved by removing the gelatinous outer seed coat before drying.

Ripen papayas are most commonly eaten fresh, merely peeled, seeded, cut in wedges and served with a half or quarter of lime or lemon.

India and Brazil are the major producers of papaya, together providing 57% of the world total of 12.4 million tonnes in 2013. Gaining in popularity among tropical fruits worldwide, papaya is now ranked fourth in tropical fruit production after banana, oranges and mango. Global papaya production has grown significantly over the last few years, mainly as a result of increased production in India. Papaya has become an important export horticultural crop for developing countries especially in Asia and Latin America.


  • Papaya is very low in calories (39 calories/100 g) and contains no cholesterol and is a rich source of phyto-nutrients, minerals and vitamins.
  • Fresh, ripe papaya is one of the fruits with the highest vitamin C content, more than in oranges or lemons.
  • Papaya also an excellent source of Vitamin A which is required for maintaining healthy skin and essential for healthy vision.
  • Fresh papaya also contains a good amount of potassium (257 mg per 100 g) and calcium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids and helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure countering effects of sodium.
  • Papayas are also a good source of fibre which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels.
  • Green papayas (not ripe) are eaten in some Asian countries as salads, curries or soups. The fruit should be boiled eating them.
  • Young papaya leaves and stems are also cooked as a vegetable.
  • The latex (a sap) from the green fruits, the leaves and the stem are rich in papain, an enzyme that breaks down tough meat fibres. Papain is a component in products sold in markets and which is used to make meat softer before cooking it.


(Source: USDA national nutrient data base)

Energy                                      – 39 Kcal

Carbohydrates                          – 9.81 g

Protein                                      – 0.61 g

Total Fat                                   – 0.14 g

Cholesterol                               – 0

Fibre                                         – 1.80 g


Folates                                     – 38 micro g

Niacin                                       – 0.338 mg

Riboflavin                                 – 0.032

Thiamine                                   – 0.027

Vitamin A                                  – 1094 IU

Vitamin C                                  – 61.8 mg

Vitamin E                                  – 0.73 mg

Vitamin K                                  – 2.6 micro g


Sodium                                     – 3 mg

Potassium                                – 257 mg

Calcium                        – 24 mg

Iron                                           – 0.10 mg

Magnesium                               – 10 mg

Phosphorus                              – 5 mg

Zinc                                          – 0.07 mg

Pic 6: Unusual papaya plant with branches in Mackay

Dr. Lalith Gunasekera, Invasive Plant Specialist based in Mackay – Queensland



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