Annonaceae (Custard apple family)

Description. The pond apple is a small deciduous tree, often with a thick base, 4-10 m (13-33 ft) tall. Alternate, leathery leaves elliptic to oblong, 12-26 cm (5-10 in) long, glossy with pointed tip. Solitary, hermaphroditic flowers cream-white with 3 fleshy, triangular outer petals. Smooth fruits globose, heartshaped or oval, yellowish-green to yellow when ripe. Soft, sweet pulp orange-yellow, aromatic, with numerous winged, brown seeds.

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical America from southern Florida to Argentina and Peru. Also grows naturally in West Africa. Occurs often in swamps or along rivers and lakes. Usually rare outside its natural habitat, but can be invasive where escaped from cultivation.

The tree is not grown in plantations, since the fruits are of inferior quality compared with closely related species of the same family. The pond apple is sometimes used as rootstock for other Annona species. The tree requires a humid tropical climate and can withstand prolonged flooding and waterlogged soils.

Food uses. The pulp, with a fruity, agreeable taste reminiscent of banana and overripe pineapple, is sometimes eaten fresh. Fully ripe pond apples are used to make jams, jellies, and fruit wine.

Comments. The pond apple is undoubtedly a minor member of the Annona genus, which contains important fruit tree species like the cherimoya (A. cherimola) and the soursop (A. muricata, p. 19). The tree is an important food source for many bird and mammal species. The common name alligator apple reflects the fact that alligators in the Everglades swamps of southern Florida sometimes eat the ripe fruits that fall in the water.

Description. Mountain soursop is a medium-sized tree with spreading branches, 8-12 m (26-39 ft) tall. Alternate, aromatic, oblong to elliptic leaves. Blades very glossy, dark green, 8-18 cm (3-7 in) long. Flowers yellowish with 3 fleshy, triangular outer petals and 3 inner petals. Fruits nearly spherical, 12-16 cm (5-6 in) in diameter with yellowish-green skin with short spines and white to lemon-colored soft flesh containing several inedible seeds. Depending on variety, the taste of the flesh ranges from very sweet to subacid and even bitter.

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical America. The tree grows under tropical and subtropical conditions, tolerating a wide range of soil types and withstanding even light frosts.

Food uses. The lemon-colored flesh of superior varieties is eaten fresh or made into milk shakes or fruit juices. Pieces of the flesh can be added to fruit salads or used as a garnish for desserts.

Comments. The mountain soursop is much less appreciated than its close relative, the soursop (A. muricata). The fairly cold-hardy tree is sometimes used as rootstock to graft other Annona species. Another minor member of the Annonaceae is

A. glabra, the alligator apple (p. 17), native to tropical America and West Africa and producing oval to heart-shaped fruits with a yellow skin. The pulp is sometimes made into jelly or wine.


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