Tropical Fruit Information
Fruit Trees -- B
Fruiting Trees, Shrubs and Herbaceous Plants -- B
++ 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. Bamboo see section on Bamboo below
FCFS available. Bananas are easy to grow in SW Florida, quickly giving a tall plant with a lush tropical appearance. Plantains are varieties used for cooking when green or ripe. They are starchy and have a lower moisture content than bananas. Plantains are not as cold hardy as most banana varieties and are more difficult to grow in SW Florida. Ripe plantains are good in breads or cakes and don't turn dark like regular bananas. Bananas and plantains are not true trees, but rather herbaceous plants. They grow as a cluster of stems originating from the same underground rhizome called a corm. They are useful at a new home where vertical height is needed quickly while slower growing trees gain size. However, they can look brown and tattered during the coldest couple of months. If there is a hard freeze the clump will come back, but a year of production may be lost.
The part that looks like a trunk is made up of tightly packed concentric layers of leaf sheaths, actually called a 'pseudostem'. This pseudostem begins as a sprout, or 'sucker', emerging from buds along the underground rhizome. Over time suckers elongate into stems and usually after a year or more and a certain number of leaves are produced, the terminal bud emerges, enveloped in a long purple sheath. The female flowers are the first to appear. The immature green fruit develops at the base of these flowers for the next several months. Hands of hermaphroditic flowers appear next, shortly after the female flowers, producing small, undeveloped, and useless fruits that eventually fall off. The large purplish red bud continues to elongate, revealing the functionally male blossoms,. Some recommend removing this bud, thinking that it may take nutrients from the fruit. We consider it a matter of preference. On a large plantation bananas are the male flower, the false hands and 1-2 of the smallest hands closest to the bud are removed to speed up time to harvest and to increase finger length.
At the home level, one will probably not notice the difference. Besides, if left it provides nectar for bees. However, if the fruiting stalk is leaning severely, it may help to remove the excess weight of the flower.
Once a stalk has fruited, it will die and should be cut down to provide more room for the side shoots. This can be done easily with a machete. The cut leaves and stem can be left as mulch around the base of the other stems. They respond well to lots of fertilizer and irrigation. Short periods of flooding are tolerated by some varieties, but others may be killed.
Bananas are not uncommon in Florida yards, but it is much less common to see banana mats properly cared for and managed. They usually survive but do not thrive, on neglect. They grow quickly, requiring frequent fertilizer applications during the warmer months and consistent irrigation during the dry months, and mulch year round. This is the key to success with bananas: lost of fertilizer, irrigation and mulch throughout the year.
A note on banana availability- due to the recent introduction of the fungal banana disease 'Black Sigatoka' into Florida, we will be selling only three varieties of banana and plantain that are known to be resistant to the disease. Once the extent of the disease and the susceptibility to Black Sigatoka of the other varieties is determined, we may start selling them again in a few years.
We have most of these varieties planted out in various locations on our property. Ask to see a mature specimen if you like.
'Gold Finger', aka 'FHIA-1', developed in Honduras for disease resistance, demonstrates greater tolerance to drought, cold spells, and nematode attack than most varieties. It can support 100 lbs. of fruit without propping and produce a raceme in under a year. Fruit is slightly tart, and will not turn brown when diced. It is good eaten fresh or used in cooking. This hardy variety performs very well at ECHO and is extremely productive and easy to grow. It is not as sweet as most bananas, but it is very tasty.
'Misi Luki' is an excellent dessert banana. Beautiful green foliage, and highly disease resistant. Fruits are about 4 inches long (your classic finger bananas) intensely flavored - smooth creamy banana flavor. Misi Luki will grow to about 10-12 feet outdoors.
'Mona Lisa' is a Cavendish type banana (like the grocery store type) otherwise known as FHIA 2. Plants 10 to 12 feet tall. Produces good sized bunches of fruit that are best eaten before they are fully yellow.
'Super Plantain' is a popular variety, which grows to about 12 feet high. The fruit is terrific and is a staple of Caribbean and Latin cuisine.
The following varieties are not currently available - however, they are represented in ECHO's collection.
Cavendish-type and Cavendish-like bananas are like those that are typically found at the supermarket:
'Dwarf Cavendish' grows to 4-6 ft. tall and was considered one of the best varieties for Florida. It is hardy and wind resistant. The fruit is of medium size and good quality. Now 'Gran Nain' is a better choice, having the same qualities with higher yield and resistance to cigar end rot.
'Enano' is a dwarfed Cavendish cultivar that grows 4 to 6 ft. tall. It is a good commercial variety that bears sweet fruit.
'Gran Nain' is the commercial variety most often found in sotres. It grows to 5-7 ft. It was derived from Dwarf Cavendish, and is grown on huge plantations in Central America. It is reportedly higher yielding, producing up to 150 lbs. of high quality fruit in the tropics. It also resists blossom end rot that can occur on Dwarf Cavendish. Gran Nain is, however, susceptible to Black Sigatoka, reducing its productivity in Florida and requiring aerial fungicide sprays on commercial plantations.
'Ice Cream' or 'Blue Java' is a vigorous plant at ECHO and grows 14 to 18 ft. It is very hardy and has good cold tolerance. The fruit is medium length, wedge shaped and bluish green until ripe, then it turns yellow. The flesh is snow white and sweet. Susceptible to disease, therefore Nam Weh may be a better choice.
'Jamaican Lacatan' was formerly the 'Chiquita' banana. It grows to 15 ft. and has great tasting fruit. The stem is fairly thin and needs to be propped up to support the fruit. Will bear after 16 months. Excellent quality fruit.
'Valery' or 'Robusta' is a commercially grown Cavendish variety and reaches about 10 ft. It produces large heads of high quality fruit. Valery has proven both hardy and productive at ECHO. Very similar to grocery store types.
'William Hybrid' grows 6 to 8 ft. and is wind resistant and cold hardy. The Cavendish fruit is large and sweet with large bunches weighing up to 150 lbs.
Lady Finger-type bananas are short, sweet, and fat. They make an excellent dessert banana:
'Apple Banana' is a favorite dessert banana and grows 10-12 ft. tall. Fruits are 4-6 inches long, plump, and firm. When fully ripe, the fruit has a very good sweet sub-acid apple flavor. However, ripening may occur several days even after yellow color change in skin. Yield is not very high, and plant is very susceptible to Panama disease.
'Brazilian' is a very tall banana, quickly growing to 18 or 20 feet. It is wind tolerant and has very good quality fruits that are creamy and one of the sweetest bananas. Fruit can be allowed to ripen on or off the plant. Excellent dessert banana.
'FHIA-18' is a hardy, semi-dwarf, apple-flavored dessert banana resistant to Panama disease and nematodes and tolerant to Black Sigatoka. As with the 'Apple' Banana, the fruit must be fully ripe before eating. FHIA-18 is being grown commercially in Cuba. It is still under evaluation at ECHO before propagating it to sell (Summer 2002)
'Golden Pillow' grows 10 to 12 ft. and has moderate wind tolerance. The fruit is short and fat with thin skin; it is nearly identical to its parent, the 'apple banana.' However, Golden Pillow can be eaten before ripe without any acidity or apple flavor. The flesh is very sweet and is a favorite in SE Asia. It is also susceptible to disease.
'Mysore', 'Strawberry' is a ladyfinger type of banana hailing from India. This red tinged plant grows 12 to 14 ft., and bears quickly. The bunches of yellow fruit are tightly packed, thin-skinned and very sweet with a hint of strawberry flavor. It is fairly wind tolerant, vigorous, and productive. It is resistant to nematode and corm borer attack as well.
'Niño' or 'Honey' grows 10 to 12 ft. tall and produces one of the sweetest ladyfinger bananas. Fruit is 2 to 3 inches long, thin skinned and plump. Stock should be harvested green because bananas are prone to splitting. The plant has slender leaves of a bright, almost glowing green color. Niño is drought sensitive and does not produce large heads of fruit.
'Praying Hands' is a unique cultivar from Indonesia. Each individual banana is fused together in a hand. Fruit is very sweet with a hint of vanilla. Fruit can ripen on the stock without splitting and individual bananas will easily pull apart from the fused mass when they are yellow with ripeness. This vigorous sturdy banana produces both fruit and suckers frequently.
'Rajapuri' is a sweet dessert banana with smooth and creamy flesh. It is a hardy variety resistant to disease, nematode and corm borer attack, and can survive a light frost with leaves intact. The plant grows 6 to 8 ft. tall and is very wind resistant. Fruit size and production is medium, however stock will bear in less than one year. Rajapuri is one of the favorite bananas of India and an excellent choice for the dooryard enthusiast; however it is very susceptible to black Sigatoka.
'Thousand Finger' grows up to 12 ft. It produces a long bunch with 1 in. fruits. There may be up to 1000 fruits in a bunch. The flower bud keeps setting fruits as long as the plant can nourish it.
Plantains are used for cooking:
'African Rhino Horn' grows to about 12 ft. and produces two to four hands of fruit. The fruits are usually 12-14 inches in length, but can grow to 2 ft. and weigh as much as 3 lbs. each. The Rhino Horn has leaves and a pseudostem that is dappled red. The fruit is good for cooking and eating out-of-hand. Rhino Horn is a favorite of corm borer pests.
'Dwarf Puerto Rican' is a plantain that grows 6-8 ft. tall. It has a distinctive bronze colored trunk and leaves. Plant in a warm and well-protected site with optimal growing conditions.
'FHIA-3' is a disease-resistant cultivar that doubles as both a dessert banana and a cooking banana. it is now grown commercially in Grenada and Cuba (where it is used primarily as a ripe dessert banana). The plants are hardy, semi-dwarf, sturdy and productive, resistant to black Sigatoka, Panama disease, and Moko disease and tolerant to nematodes. After evaluation at ECHO this may be made available for sale (summer 2002).
'FHIA-25' is a hardy, semi-dwarf cooking banana that is highly resistant to black Sigatoka. This hybrid is for cooking green only. Rated by consumers in Honduras as being equal to or better than boiled and fried plantains.
'Hua Moa' or 'Hawaiiano' is a banana-plantain cross that grows 10 to 12 ft. and is produced commercially on the E. Coast of Florida. The 'melon-shaped' fruits are 6 to 11 in. long and 3 in. or more in diameter. The orange flesh is good for eating fresh and highly esteemed in Cuba as a cooking banana for making tostones. Remove the stalk before it ripens or the fruit will split as it yellows.
'Kau Lau' is a vigorous Hawaiian plantain growing to 16 ft. tall. This cultivar produces large bunches of excellent cooking bananas.
Specialty Bananas are multi-purpose bananas and plantain x banana crosses:
'Dwarf Colorado Blanco' grows 7 to 8 ft. Trunk, petioles, and midribs resemble the Jamaican Red, but the fruit is orange-fleshed, while the skin is green and ripens to yellow. May take up to 18 months
'Dwarf Orinoco' resembles its taller progenitor ('Orinoco' Plantain, see below under Specialty Bananas), except for bearing larger racemes of fruit. Standing only 6 to 7 ft., this hardy cultivar is thought to be the most productive variety per square foot.
'Dwarf Jamaican Red,' a smaller form of the 'Jamaican Red', bears more quickly and grows only 7-8 ft. tall.to bear fruit.
'Giant Pisang' grows 20 to 30 ft. If a compatible banana is flowering the fruit will be full of hard, indigestible seeds. This sturdy vigorous cultivar may grow 60 to 80 ft. in the jungle and has a beautiful pink flower.
'FHIA-17' is a hardy semi-dwarf dessert banana similar to Cavendish in size and flavor. This hybrid is resistant to Panama disease and the banana root borer insect and tolerant to black Sigatoka. It is still under evaluation at ECHO.
'Jamaican Red' grows 16 to 18 ft. tall and has a red stem. The short, fat fruit is red with orange flesh and is a delicious dessert banana. Fruit production is slow-up to 18 months. It can withstand some wind but not flooding.
'Kru' This rare variety was imported from the jungles of New Guinea, where it has become extinct. The plant has a beautiful reddish stem and leaves. The red fruit is 5-6 inches long, wedge shaped, and orange-fleshed. Reported to be one of the best tasting bananas. The plant is moderately wind resistant and sensitive to drought and cold.
'Nam Weh,' a Thai banana, produces angular fruit with excellent sweet flavor. Fruit, growth habit, and hardiness are very similar to the 'Ice Cream' banana, but Nam Weh is disease resistant and lacks the silvery-colored peel.
'Red Iholene' grows 14 to 16 ft. Iholenes are Polynesian banana-plantain crosses that ripen faster than any other cultivar. The stalk and leaf undersides of Red Ilohene are a beautiful burgundy color. The fruit emerges yellow and in 7 weeks is salmon colored and ready for harvest. The flesh is orange, fairly dry, and excellent for eating fresh or use in cooking.
'Orinoco' or 'Burro' or 'Horse' grows to 10-12 ft. This dual-purpose banana is delicious when used like a green plantain or eaten fresh when ripe. The fruit tastes best when left on the plant until yellow. The angular fruit is 8 to 10 inches long and thick. Long established in Florida, this hardy variety can endure wind and cold. Orinoco needs to be supported when carrying large heads of fruit.
'Philippines Lakatan' is the most highly esteemed fruit in the Philippines. The plant grows to 18 ft. tall and produces medium-sized fruits that are 5-7 inches in length.
'Pisang Raja' is a sturdy plant, tolerating cold and wind, growing to 20 ft. It is one of the most delicious bananas and has orange-fleshed, slightly fuzzy fruit that are between 6 to7 inches long. It is the most productive of the orange-fleshed bananas.
'SH3640' is a selection from the FHIA research station in Honduras. Resistant to nematodes, it was used for breeding purposes. Unfortunately, it is susceptible to black Sigatoka. They are sturdy, productive plants that produce an even higher quality fruit than Goldfinger. They are similar to Goldfinger in the robust growth habit and height.
'Tuu Ghia' grows 14-16 ft. tall. This Vietnamese variety bears long, thin, unusually curved bananas. This vigorous and productive plant has outstanding and unique flavor reminiscent of "Starburst"Ô fruit chew candies.
FCFS available. One of the richest sources of vitamin C, a single small fruit of some selections could supply the daily adult requirement of this vitamin. Varieties differ in sweetness. The tart varieties have more vitamin C than sweet ones and unripe fruit tends to have more vitamin C than ripe fruit. The tree may have 3-5 crops a year, with the first flowering usually taking place in April and fruit maturing 45 days later. It will continue to bear until October or later. Production starts the second year after planting. Nematodes can reduce its vigor if not planted in rich soil. Freezes kill it back but it can re-sprout. We have several shrubs growing in the "Tropical Cherry" row next to the Appropriate Technology area.
'ECHO Sweet', our own variety, is tangy and mildly sweet.
'Florida Sweet' is considered a superior variety with an upright growth habit, large fruit, thick skin, semi-sweet flavor and high yield.
++'Manoa Sweet' is slightly tart with very good flavor.
Bignay produces showy drooping clusters of 1/3 inch fruits that can be made into jams or wine or are eaten fresh. They are small, seedy, sub-acid and slightly sweet when ripe and have a thin, tough skin. They taste very bitter to some people. In some countries the leaves are eaten cooked with rice. The tree has dense foliage and is variable in mature size, ranging from 10¢ - 100¢ (in the tropics), but in Forida they rarely exceed 25¢. Seedling trees bear either male or female flowers. Female trees can begin producing fruit in 2 years, but require cross-pollination from a male tree. The fruit does not all ripen at once and some trees bloom earlier than others so harvest ranges from late summer through winter. Bignay should be hardy up to central Florida.
Black Sapote produces a round, slightly flattened, green skinned fruit that is soft when ripe. The flesh has a texture and color similar to whipped chocolate pudding. The flavor is sweet and mild, with a hint of persimmon to which it is botanically related. Serve chilled. The fruit pulp is often mixed with other juices. Fruits usually ripen December to March (but some trees may produce June to August). This handsome evergreen has thick foliage, a wide crown, and will grow quickly to a height of around 45 ft. in Florida. Fruit production usually starts in 3-6 years. Unpicked fruit falls and splatters on the ground. It does well without any cultural attention, but does benefit from fertilizer. Temperatures of 28-30° F can be tolerated for short periods once the tree is well established.
Seedling propagated trees may result in completely male trees that bear no fruit. Therefore we try to sell only grafted trees from proven sources. We are currently carrying a variety from the home of Richard Wilson, owner of Excalibur Fruit Trees in West Palm Beach. This variety is superior to most others, producing heavy crops of large, pleasantly sweet and very creamy textured fruits that are often seedless.
We have mature trees (planted 1996) in the north side of the arboretum.
FCFS available. As with blueberries in the wild, this one requires an acid soil with high organic matter content. Blueberries are shallow rooted, drought sensitive, and respond favorably to mulch. A 6-inch mulch layer will reduce soil temperature by as much as 10 degrees and hold moisture. A severe post-harvest summer pruning will promote a new flush of growth that will remain evergreen throughout the winter. Failure to prune blueberries will result in sickly, unproductive plants. Fertilize bushes lightly and frequently with an acid fertilizer; they cannot tolerate a heavy dose. Provide several applications of elemental sulphur each year to reduce soil pH. Cross-pollination between varieties is recommended for better fruit set and quality. We recommend plucking flowers during the first two growing seasons to concentrate plant energy toward vegetative growth rather than fruit production. ALL BLUEBERRIES MUST HAVE AN ACID, MOIST SOIL. We carry at least two southern highbush varieties that will cross-pollinate and produce in SW Florida.
'Emerald' was released by the University of Florida in 1999. It is a vigorous, upright, bush with potential for high yields, ripens early and produces large, high-quality berries.
'Gulf Coast' is a 1987 USDA release. Bears sweeter fruit than 'Sharpeblue', and have a higher chilling requirement. Its dark green and narrow leaves make it an attractive plant. The fruit quality is very good. Highly recommended.
'Jewel' is a recent release from the University of Florida. It is an early-ripening variety with a low chilling requirement and high quality berry. It is similar in quality to 'Sharpeblue', but ripens earlier. It is productive, vigorous, and slightly spreading. It has good resistance to root rot and leaf diseases. It yields a large, sky-blue, firm, slightly tart fruit. Chilling requirement is estimated at 250 hours, but it is still recommended for South Florida.
'Misty' is also a University of Florida release. 'Misty' tends to set too heavy a crop and can have weak vegetative growth. Fruit are large and excellent in quality; foliage is deep green and leathery,
'Sharpeblue' bears medium-sized fruit in mid to late April-one of the earliest blueberries to ripen in North America. However, blossoms and early fruit set may need freeze protection.
see Custard Apple
see Peanut Butter Fruit