Tropical Fruit Information
Fruit Trees -- N, O, P
Fruiting Trees, Shrubs and Herbaceous Plants - N, O, P
++ Indicates that this is a variety or a species that is found in our arboretum, but not often stocked in our nursery. Inquire about availability. If we do not have it in stock, we can put you on our "waitlist" and call you when we have it available.
Technical Sheet Available. Neem is a fairly fast growing tree and is medium in size when mature. The seeds, and to a lesser extent the leaves, contain azadirachtin. This is a systemic pesticide with both repellent and insecticidal properties. It has little if any toxicity to mammals and wasps (beneficial insects). Seed production starts in five years or less. Two trees of different genetic origin are needed for cross-pollination (i.e. two seedling trees). Sometimes we have grafted neem so the rootstock and grafted branch can pollinate each other. Be sure you do not prune the grafted branch! The seeds can be ground up and soaked overnight, then strained and the liquid mixed with more water and sprayed on gardens. Many commercial neem insecticide products are now on the market. The wood is similar to Cuban mahogany and is tougher than teak. It is rot and insect resistant. Neem will grow under very dry conditions once established and also tolerates heavy rainfall, but needs good drainage. It can be killed by waterlogged soils. Neem is freeze sensitive and at least the lower trunk should be protected if there will be freezing temperatures so it can grow back from the trunk. Re-growth does not begin until about mid-spring since neem does not normally produce new growth in the winter.
Phyllanthus acidus, syns. P. distichus, Cicca acida, C. disticha
Otaheite gooseberry is a very prolific shrub or small tree known as Mayom in Thailand. The tart yellow fruits are produced abundantly in January and in smaller quantities at other times. The fruits resemble a flattened Surinam cherry, but are yellow. They can be sliced from the pit and covered with sugar for a day in a refrigerator, then used as a sauce. It can be cooked with sugar and will amazingly turn into a ruby-red jam. They also can be combined with other fruits to help the jelly/jam "set." The young leaves can be cooked as a vegetable. The tree grows well on most soil types, thriving even on quite alkaline soil, but likes moisture. Good cropping starts in four years from seed. Sweet varieties are now available.
FCFS available. Papaya is one of the favorite and by far the most productive fruits at ECHO. It is an attractive plant and can be ten feet tall and loaded with fruit in less than one year. The ripe fruits can be eaten fresh and have about the same concentration of vitamin C as oranges. They are also a good source of Vitamin A and can be made into juice, jam, dehydrated fruit, or are canned in syrup. Unripe fruits are peeled and cooked as a substitute for summer squash or applesauce. "Solo" varieties produce 1.1-2.2 lbs. fruits that are often favored for their taste and size over the regular large fruited varieties. Another advantage to solo papayas is that about 2/3 of the plants are self-fertile and the rest are female so there are no unproductive male plants. Papayas perform better on fertile soil and do not tolerate flooding. The leaves are frost sensitive and the trunk can be killed back by a freeze, but the plant usually grows back. The tree can live about 20 years under good conditions, but they are usually replaced after a few years due to decline in production. We recommend planting at least 2-3 papayas to ensure that male and female flowers are present. Fruits from female plants are usually short and round with a large seed cavity, while bisexual plants bear elongated fruits with thicker flesh and a smaller seed cavity. We have many papaya plants growing all over the farm.
'Known-You No. 1' is a yellow-fleshed Taiwanese hybrid that has very large fruits weighing up to 7 lbs. The plant is sturdy, productive and tolerant of papaya ring spot virus. The elongated fruit has sweet and good flavor. From our experience, this cultivar produces only female or bisexual plants. We have also found that on this variety even the female plants are self-fruitful, always putting out at least one male flower.
'Red Lady,' is a red-fleshed solo variety grown commercially throughout the tropics. Reported to be tolerant of the papaya ring spot virus, this cultivar is vigorous, productive, and begins bearing at a young age. The large fruits weigh as much as 4½ lbs. We have also found that on this variety even the female plants are self-fruitful, always putting out at least one male flower. If you wish to purchase only one papaya plant, this is the variety we recommend.
'Sunrise' solo is the most popular papaya variety ECHO sells. The fruits are softball- to football-sized, exhibiting reddish flesh, high sugar content and a unique fruity flavor. Flowering and fruiting occur rapidly. We also carry 'Sunrise', a similar variety.
'Waimanalo' bears softball-sized, yellow-fleshed fruits that are sweet and pleasantly flavored. It is a Hawaiian solo papaya. Flowering and fruiting occur rapidly in this Hawaiian solo cultivar; however, it may be more susceptible to disease than other cultivars.
Why buy hard, flavorless, store-ripened peaches when you can grow scintillating, juicy peaches in your own backyard? The major setback in peach/nectarine production in Florida has been that cultivars require too long a period of cool temperatures to set fruit. This essential cooling period is measured in 'chill units'. Chill units are the number of hours the temperature stays between 32-55º F. Most effective chilling occurs with continuing temperatures below 45 º F. However, peaches with low-chill requirements have been developed in Gainesville, and are now being grown commercially throughout Florida. The varieties that we carry have produced in Homestead. Peaches and Nectarines prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil. They are small, deciduous trees that grow to 15ft. For consistent, heavy production, trees require a thorough winter pruning, and heavy crops should be thinned to produce larger fruit. Low chill peaches and nectarines are self-pollinated and bear fruit April through May. Showy pink and white flowers will appear Feb-March.
'Flordaprince' has delectable yellow flesh enclosed by attractive red and yellow skin. Over 60,000 acres are grown commercially in Egypt and this variety is recommended highly for southern Florida. Fruit set requires 100 or more chill hours.
++'Flordaglo' is a white-fleshed peach with juicy flesh and superb flavor. Fruit set requires 100 or more chill hours.
'Tropic Beauty' is yellow-fleshed and slightly larger and sweeter than the Flordaprince, and ripens 9 days later. Fruit set requires 200 or more chill hours.
'Sun Raycer' is a new commercial variety that produces superior large fruit. Fruit set requires 150 or more chill hours.
++'Sun home' is an attractive red-leafed tree that produces excellent red fruit slightly smaller than Sun Raycer. Fruit set requires 250 or more chill hours.
This tree is an ornamental and early fruiting bush or small tree. The yellow flowers are produced spring through fall and are followed by a nearly constant production of fruits in varying quantity. They are about the size of a medium-sized fig. They must be picked every day since they spoil on the second day. The skin is extremely tender. They can be stored for several days in the refrigerator or can be separated from the seed and frozen. Some people enjoy the fruit fresh, while others do not like the flavor or somewhat peanut butter-like texture. The flavor is rich and sweet, similar to sweet potato. They are especially good when made into a milkshake. Our tree froze to the ground during the freeze of Dec.'89 but produced heavily the second summer after the freeze.
Pachira aquatica, syn. Bombax glabra
This is a small 15 ft. tree that is grown in many parts of the world for its delicious seeds, eaten raw or roasted. The roasted seeds taste like chestnuts or cashews, but take time to peel. This evergreen tree produces fairly large, white, self-fertile flowers several times a year followed by 4-12" capsules that burst open when the ½" or larger seeds are mature. Production starts within a few years. Malabar Chestnut is very frost sensitive, but resilient. A tree produced the second winter after a hard freeze killed it back to the ground. You can see a mature Malabar chestnut tree to the left as you pull into the nursery parking lot.
FCFS available. These are not the tiny wild persimmons (Diospyros americana) of which you may have sordid and sour memories. Asian persimmons are highly esteemed throughout the world. The fruit is brilliant orange-red and can be eaten fresh when soft and fully ripe, or can be made into a milk shake or persimmon bread. Only the non-astringent varieties can be eaten when still firm, in which case it is almost like a different fruit. Some of the persimmons at ECHO have done very well, while others have grown poorly. Potential heavy production of tasty fruit makes them well worth a try. Most varieties do not produce well in extreme southern Florida due to lack of winter chilling. The trees are deciduous and require light pruning only. Persimmons are mostly self-fertile and can produce seedless fruits. Persimmon season in Florida is September through November. Fruit can be harvested unripe and allowed to ripen off the tree.
'Fuyugaki' is a non-astringent variety that is crisp and sweet when under ripe and soft like any other persimmon when ripe. This is the most popular variety in Japan but some years it does not fruit well in south Florida probably due to lack of chilling. Fully ripe fruits are medium to large and have a hint of cinnamon taste. Bears mid season.
'Hana-Fuyu' is non-astringent and one of the largest persimmons. The fruits are round. Bears mid-season.
'Saijo'. In Japanese, Saijo means, "the very best". The fruits are elongate, medium sized, astringent and of excellent sweet flavor.
'Tanenashi' means 'seedless' in Japanese. When ripened, the flesh is very smooth and deliciously sweet. This astringent variety produces heavily at ECHO mid to late season.
'Triumph' produces astringent, small, delicious fruit. A cultivar selected in Israel, this variety produces extremely well in our warmer climate, fruiting as far south as Miami. With a long fruiting season, Triumph persimmons can sometimes be picked into early winter.
Other varieties may be available upon request: Sheng, Gionbo, Hachiya, Ichi, Izu, and Matsumoto.
Pineapple was once a commercial crop in Florida, but moved to other countries due to labor costs and cold weather conditions. Under good conditions, pineapples are produced in one or two years after planting. The fruits are much sweeter when allowed to ripen on the plant. As your plant develops, you can propagate them on your own by selecting the most desirable planting pieces. Suckers, originating at the stem just above or below the soil level produce the quickest, largest, and best tasting pineapples. Slips and crowns are less desirable for planting out. Slips are growths that appear higher up the stem, above or below the fruit. Crowns are the top section of a fruit. These usually produce small fruits that take over two years to produce fruit. Select large suckers and let them cure in the shade for several days before planting. Pineapples can be planted in the sun or shade. A rich, moist soil is preferred and mulch is also helpful. The stiff, pointed leaves can be dangerous to eyes. Plants survive 28º F with leaf damage.
FCFS available: "Selected Eugenia Species." Pitomba can fruit when less than 3½¢. tall. The white flowers are showy and up to one inch across. The fruit is about one inch long and the thin skin is bright orange-yellow. The soft juicy flesh is aromatic and sweet to subacid in flavor. This attractive small tree is evergreen, spreading, and has dark green dense foliage. It is hardy to about 27º F.
Similar to its relative the peach, plums are suited to well-drained and slightly acidic soil. They are small, deciduous trees that grow 10 to 15 ft. For consistent, heavy production, trees require a heavy winter pruning, and large crops should be thinned to ensure quality fruit size. Plums require cross-pollination with either wild plums or another domesticated variety. We carry two Japanese low-chill plum varieties and recommend that both be planted within 100 ft of each other. 'Gulf Gold' is a dwarfed tree with yellow-skinned fruit. 'Gulf Ruby' is a red-skinned plum. Fruit of both varieties are standard plum size (2-3½" diameter), have yellow flesh, and are very sweet. Flowers appear in Feb-March, and fruit ripens April through May. Note: The Loquat is sometimes called 'Japanese Plum'
Pomegranate grows as a shrub or small tree. The flowers are showy, exhibiting red and white colors. The fruit grows to 2 ½ to 5 inches wide and has a tough leathery rind. Inside are many sacks filled with transparent, juicy, crisp flesh and seeds. The fruit can be eaten fresh or can be juiced by cutting in half and pressing by hand onto an orange juicer. They will not ripen off the tree. The tree is tolerant of almost any soil type, but prefers a fairly dry climate. In southwest Florida it fruits better after a cold winter. Fruit can be produced the first year, but it usually takes 2 or 3 years. For the first three years, the bush should be pruned heavily to form a main stem with many short branches. After 3 years, only suckers and dead branches are removed. Pomegranate is hardy to about 12º F. In northern Florida the pomegranate bears July - November, but it may produce year round in the southern part of the state.
'Vietnamese' is a selection from Vietnam by Richard Wilson. It is said to be more tolerant of Florida's hot, humid weather.
'Wonderful' pomegranate originated in Florida. The fruit is very large, dark purple-red, with medium-thick rind. Juicy wine-colored pulp encapsulates medium-hard seeds that are difficult to chew. The plant is vigorous and productive.
Opuntia spp., syn. Nopalea opuntia
The pads of this cactus species are a popular vegetable in Mexico. Although spineless, the small brown prickly patches called "glochids" on the pads must carefully be peeled off with a knife or burned off before handling or eating. The rest of the skin is edible. We found one of our plants was free or nearly so of glochids which we usually have available. Pads are cooked as a vegetable, or diced and added to salads. Very young pads do not have prickles, but tend to be mucilaginous. Look in Mexican cookbooks under 'nopales' for recipes. Plants should be transplanted at least 4¢ apart as they will eventually become quite large. A large spineless prickly pear plant can be seen between the duck pond and the hillside farming demonstration. This spreading plant is enormous, over 20 feet tall.
Purple Mombinsee Mombin, Red