Tropical Fruit Information
For the Enthusiast
Trees for the Enthusiast
++ 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.
This section includes plants sometimes available and recommended for the ENTHUSIAST ONLY. These plants are very difficult to grow in Florida mostly due to their lack of cold hardiness and may not be normally propagated or stocked by ECHO.
Blighia sapida, syn. Cupania sapida
See Akee fact sheet before eating this fruit due to the extremely poisonous nature of the unripe fruit. Akee trees are easy to grow and do well on alkaline soils. The fruit has a leathery pericarp that splits when the fruit is ripe. When ripe, it can be eaten fresh, but it is usually cooked, boiled, or canned. There is a hypoglycine toxin in the unripe fruit that can be lethal. One little section is enough to kill a person if it is eaten before it is ripe. Once the fruit starts to break down and get soft and slimy, it may make you sick if you eat it, but that is not due to hypoglycine. Akee is the national fruit of Jamaica. Mature trees can survive short periods of 26º F without much damage, but young trees are more cold sensitive. It may grow to 35 ft.
Spondias dulcis, syn. S. cytherea
The egg-sized fruits are borne in clusters of up to a dozen or more, on large panicles. Fruits are thick-skinned, fibrous, and drop from the tree while green. Before turning yellow, the flesh is crisp and somewhat acidic. It can be eaten out-of-hand, but is also prepared by stewing fruit with sugar. The dwarf ambarella was collected on a trip to Borneo and our original seedling tree has produced several crops in a pot. Ambarella is vigorous, but less cold hardy than its relative, the mango. Seedling trees produce after 4 years. The plant prefers some shade and shelter from wind.
Assai, or Asai, palm is a beautiful clumping palm from the Amazon region in South America. It grows to about 50 ft. and produces fruits that are mashed in warm water to make drinks and ice cream. It is rare outside the Amazon and apparently hard to keep alive after planting in the ground in Florida. It needs a wet or flooded location or water source. It also is highly sensitive to drought and cold temperatures.
Cacao produces a large yellow-orange shelled fruit with a small amount of edible sweet pulp. The seeds are the source of cocoa and may be fermented for a few days for best flavor. The skin then easily washes off and the seeds are dried and roasted. In Colombia the seeds are ground, mixed with a starchy white corn meal, then cooked and eaten like porridge. Fruit production can start when the tree is only about five feet tall or when the trunk is about one or two inches in diameter. They may produce well in a 40-gallon pot, but are sensitive to root disturbance and over fertilizing. Production may be better with two trees. Cacao grows well in floodplains in the Amazon. Freezing may damage or kill the tree. We have six cacao trees growing in the Rainforest Clearing demonstration area.
Cashew produces a nut and a fruit. The nut grows to full size first, then the pseudofruit, or swollen stem, develops into the "cashew apple." The apple has spongy, fibrous, very juicy, astringent, acid to subacid, yellow pulp that is eaten fresh or juiced. The nutshell contains a caustic resin. The nut and apple fall from the tree when they are ripe. The tree is not at all frost tolerant but produces in about two years in the tropics so it might produce in a large pot. Performance in southwest Florida is unknown.
This small, spreading tree grows from 16 to 30 feet in height and is thought to have originated in the highlands of either Ecuador, Colombia or Bolivia. It would be most appropriate for the enthusiast only in southern Florida due to the less-than-ideal growing conditions. In addition to not thriving in the humid lowlands, cherimoyas may need to be hand pollinated to ensure good fruit set. It is, however, considered one of the most desirable fruits of the Annona genus. The fruit is usually large, either conical or heart-shaped. The flesh is white in color, aromatic, soft but not mealy, very delicious, and contains numerous black seeds, which resemble beans. They have reportedly borne fruit in East Fort Myers and we have seen a productive healthy tree in West Palm Beach. Cherimoyas are hardy to about 26° F.
‘Fina de Jete' is an excellent shaped fruit with juicy, sweet flesh. When mature, black speckles may appear under skin. Matures mid-season. Spain's main commercial variety.
‘Booth' produces smaller fruit with small seeds, but there are many seeds in the fruit. Booth is very juicy, but very creamy at the same time, and has a nice acidic overtone that mellows out the sweetness. Booth trees aren't as vigorous, but have a nice, upright growth habit.
‘Honeyheart' and ‘Dr. White' have also been recently added to ECHO's cherimoya collection.
The cola nut would be another candidate for the enthusiast due to its cold sensitivity and specific cultural requirements. This slow growing tree will reach 30 feet at maturity, and will fruit, under ideal conditions, in 8-10 years. The 8 to 10 inch pods contain several large seeds. In some species of cola nut, the seed coat is the edible commodity. In some cultures, the cola nut is chewed as a stimulant, because of its high caffeine content. Cola has traditionally been exported as an additive to beverages, hence the name.
Durian is seldom, if ever, in stock at ECHO. We have never grown it successfully. The durian is a large tropical tree. The fruit is also large, like an American football with sharp conical projections all over it. When the fruit is ripe, it breaks apart into sections. The large seeds are surrounded by pulp of a custard consistency. It has a distinct smell that is rather strong and not exactly pleasant. Durian is extremely cold sensitive and poorly adapted to Florida soil.
see Spanish Lime
see Ambarella above
see Ambarella above
Artocarpus lingnanensis or A. hypargyraeus, A. hypargyraea
FCFS available. Kwai Muk produces a 1 to 2 in. wide, orange to red fruit that is acid to subacid and excellent flavor. It can be eaten fresh when fully ripe, dried, or preserved. Fruit ripens Aug. to Sept. Male and female flowers are produced on the same tree but two may be needed for good fruit production. The tree grows slowly and is erect and good for landscaping. It is similar to mango and jackfruit in cold hardiness.
see Spanish Lime below
Syzygium malaccense, syns. Eugenia malaccensis, Jambos malaccensis
The Malay Apple produces a pear-shaped fruit with thin, shiny, pinkish or dark red skin. The flesh is white and can be dry or moist. It has a rose scent and pleasant sweet to acid taste. They can be eaten fresh or cooked like apples. There is usually one large seed in the fruit and some of the fruits are seedless. This attractive tree has dense shiny foliage adorned with intense pink flowers. In the tropics, the Malay Apple may climb to 60 ft.; however, trees are extremely cold sensitive and must be kept small in southwest Florida.
Pouteria sapote, syns. P. mammosa, Lucuma mammosa, Achradelpha mammosa
Also known simply as "sapote". Because of its cold sensitivity, only the enthusiast should attempt growing mamey in southwestern Florida. The time between flower and fruit is about 2 years. The fruit weighs from ½ to 5 lbs., has a rough and leathery skin, pink to deep red, sweet flesh and generally contains 1-4 large seeds. The mamey is extremely popular in Tropical America and is known as the ‘Apple of Cuba.' It is commonly added to ice creams and other desserts. In a more tropical climate the mamey can reach 60 to 130 feet in height. This is not likely in our area due to frequent frosts and occasional freezes.
‘Pantin' is the only variety ECHO carries. It is the same as ‘Key West'
This may have been a staple food for the Mayan Indians. The seed should be boiled or roasted. This species is recommended for the enthusiast only as it may not be well adapted to southwest Florida.
see Peach Palm
Bactris gasipaes, syn. Guilielma gasipaes
Also called pejibaye. It is usually a tall, clumping palm with spiny trunks and stems. The fruit is boiled about an hour in salted water. The flesh is yellow or orange, dry, mealy and sometimes has a trace of bitterness. The palm heart is very good raw or cooked. Fruit production begins in about 5 years in warm climates. The fruits are 1 to 2 inches wide and hang in clusters of 50 to 100 or more. They turn yellow, orange or red when ripe. It requires a tropical climate.
see Assai Palm
Rambutan is somewhat similar to lychee, except it is strictly tropical. This is very seldom in stock at ECHO. We do not carry this unless we receive seeds from an overseas tropical source, since there are no mature trees to our knowledge in Florida. The likelihood of a plant surviving to maturity is slim. There have been rumors of warm pockets further south of us where people have grown it successfully. The tree can be male or female. The soil should be well-drained, acidic, and high in organic matter. Rambutan is very sensitive to excessive fertilizer application and is very cold sensitive.
Sandoricum koetjape, syns. S. indicum, S. nervosum, Melia koetjape
Santol is a fast-growing tropical tree reaching 50-150 ft. The fruit is yellowish, 1½ to 3 in. wide. It has an inedible rind and inside is white, fibrous sweet to sour pulp and 3 to 5 inedible seeds. The fruit is usually eaten fresh and clings to the seed. They ripen in Florida during August and September. The tree is better suited to acid soil, but will also do well on limestone. Santols are rare in Florida and are freeze sensitive, but they do well in protected areas of south Florida.
see Mamey Sapote Sometimes the Sapodilla is also called "Sapote".
Melicoccus bijugatu, syn. Melicocca bijuga
Spanish Lime produces a fruit similar in appearance to the lychee. It has a green outer shell with one large seed and translucent flesh. The flavor is subacid and refreshingly delicious. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees and the fruiting season is June through September. The plants tolerate poor soil and arid conditions, but are very cold sensitive.Last Updated ( Monday, 06 August 2007 )