From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by William F. Whitman
The Mangosteen Alternative
Scientific name: Garcinia painiana
Growing the 'button mangosteen' (Garcinia prainiana) is an attractive alternative to growing its namesake, the true mangosteen (G. mangostana).
Some of the writer's button mangosteen plants have flowered in their
pots when only two feet high. This suggests the possibility of this
Thai/Malaysian tree fruiting years before a seedling mangosteen even
flowers. Both the button mangosteen and the mangosteen are intolerant
of low temperatures. However, when it gets cold, it is far easier to
bring a 3-gallon potted button mangosteen inside than to cover up and
protect a bearing size, 12 ft. to 15 ft. mangosteen growing outside.
Growing the button mangosteen in containers is a wonderful opportunity for the adventurous indoor or patio gardener.
button mangosteen, also known as cherapu, is a small to mid-size tree
indigenous to the Asiatic tropics, where it occurs in Thailand and
Malaysia. Seeds of this Garcinia were received by the writer in 1980.
of the resulting seedlings, upon reaching a height of one metre, were
planted out in the writer's Bal Harbour grove, just north of Miami
was soon discovered that this mangosteen relative required partial
shade in its juvenile stage. To eliminate the adverse affects of full
sunlight, an overhead 63% shade cloth top was erected, the sides
remaining open. In 1988, the first fruit appeared, although some of the
plants in three-gallon containers had flowered a few years earlier. At
about the same time, Adolf Grimal, on Big Pine Key 20 miles north of
Key West, reported one of his trees from the same seed batch to be in
The button mangosteen has similar foliage to the
mangosteen, with attractive dark green, shiny leaves about 8 inches
long by 4 inches wide, the undersides pale green with prominent veins.
The base of each leaf appears to wrap around the branch, as if it had
no petiole. Young twigs and branches are dark green turning to a
brownish gray with increasing size and maturity. The trees are
dioecious, requiring both a male and a female to bear. The beautiful
rose-colored, camellia-like flowers of both sexes are about 1½
inches wide. Because both appear so much alike, it takes a close
inspection to see which has the pollen and is the male. The bloom,
which appears singly or in tight clusters, gives this Asiatic tree a
highly ornamental appearance.
The attractive bright-orange
fruit, standing out in sharp contrast to the deep-green foliage, appear
from mid-summer into fall. Hand-pollinating was found to be followed
nearly always by successful fruit set. The name 'button mangosteen'
would seem to originate from the fruit's flattened, button-like
appearance, and of course, its similarity to its famous relative. The
soft, orange-colored flesh contains two or more seeds. In describing
this Asian delicacy, Betty Molesworth Allen, in her book Malayan
Fruits, wrote "The fruits are delicious, with an unusual flavor as well
as being excellent thirst quenchers". This writer found the button
mangosteen's fruit to be sweet with a tinge of tartness that should
appeal to most people's palate.