Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 October 2011
Based on the distribution, molecular similarity and use of Morinda citrifolia L., and occurrence of a wild Morinda species, Southeast Asia and Micronesia have been suggested to be the places where noni originated. The present article discusses the indices used by Vavilov and subsequent authorities on the origin of crop plants to argue that South Asia (Southeast India) has a greater probability of being the centre of domestication/origin for noni than Southeast Asia or Micronesia. The basic reasoning is that economically important plant cannot originate without richness in biodiversity and ingenuity of local people. India with rich floristic diversity, one of the centres of origin of crop plants with a natural distribution of Morinda species, including M. citrifolia L. and its immediate ancestors, has the oldest reference of occurrence, use and cultivation (Vedic literature); therefore, it appears to be the more probable centre of noni's origin. The ancient history of the expansion of Indian culture, religion and trade to Southeast Asian countries corroborate the possible role of Indians in the introduction of noni or knowledge regarding its value to Southeast Asia, from which it was carried to Micronesia and Polynesia, which provided a more favourable environmental niche for perpetuation and use.