From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by Carl W. Campbell and Julian W. Sauls
dulcis Parkinson) Sonn. Common names: Ambarella, Otaheite
apple, golden apple
mombin L. Common names: Yellow mombin, hog plum, jobo
purpurea L. Common names: Red mombin, purple mombin,
Ambarella, Polynesia; Yellow mombin, and Red mombin, Tropical America.
Tropical and frost-free areas of the world.
The amberella is a large tree up to 18 m (60 ft.) in height. The yellow
mombin is a medium tree up to 15 m (50 ft.) in height. The red mombin
is a small tree up to 8 m (25 ft.) in height. All have an open
spreading canopy with stout, stiff branches and weak, brittle wood.
Pinnately compound, with 10-18 or more leaflets. Length of leaflets is
1-4 cm (½-1½ in.) in red mombin, 2½-4
(1-1½ in.) in yellow mombin and about 7 cm (3 in.) in
Trees are deciduous in areas with a distinct dry season.
Small and inconspicuous. Borne in large, loose terminal panicles in
ambarella and yellow mombin, in small lateral panicles on previous
season's growth in red mombin. The ambarella and yellow mombin have
bisexual flowers and are self-fertile. Host selections of red mombin
have no fertile pollen and do not produce viable seeds.
Borne in clusters of 3-20 or more in ambarella and yellow mombin,
single or in clusters of 2-3 in. in red mombin. Fruit length is 5-
7½ cm (2-3 in.) in ambarella, 2½-5 cm (1-2 in.)
mombin and red mombin. Fruit is globular to ovoid. Fruit of some
selections of red mombin is very irregular in shape. Fruit is a drupe
with a tough skin, edible yellow pulp of varying thickness, and a
single large seed. Seeds are difficult to separate from the pulp and
often have strong woody fibers projecting into the pulp. External color
of the fruit is yellow in ambarella and yellow mombin and yellow, red
or purple in red mombin.
species are best adapted to the hot, lowland tropics, although the red
mombin may be found up to an elevation of around 1800 m (6000 ft.).
They will grow in warm subtropical areas where no frost occurs, or
which experience only occasional light frosts. Cultivation in Florida
is limited to the warm southern coastal areas. The trees grow best in
fertile, well-drained soils but can be grown satisfactorily in a
variety of poorer soils if they are given nutrition.
cultivars have been described and named, although several are known and
cultivated in Florida and elsewhere in the American tropics. There is
great variation in fruit size, color and quality between selections of
red mombin and it is the most widely-cultivated of the Spondias
species in this region. Some variation in fruit characteristics exists
in populations of ambarella and yellow mombin, but little selection has
and yellow mombin may be grown from seed. Red mombin generally does not
make viable seed because it lacks fertile pollen. Vegetative
propagation is preferable for superior selections because they do not
come true from seed. The most widely-used method is the rooting of
cuttings of mature, wood. Large limbs can be cut from the tree and set
directly in the ground, where they will form roots and grow if
conditions are favorable. This method is used to make 'living fences'
in the tropics. Vegetative propagation can also be done by veneer
grafting and shield or chip budding.
trees should be set in holes larger than necessary to adequately
accommodate the root system, at a depth slightly higher than the trees
grew in the containers of the nursery. A water basin around the young
tree is helpful to assure adequate soil moisture during establishment
of the tree. Trees should be grown in full sun for satisfactory fruit
Ambarella and yellow mombin trees will have a spread
of 15-18 m (50-60 ft.) and the red mombin tree, a spread of 8-10 m
(25-30 ft.) at maturity. Consequently, spacing between trees should not
be much less than the mature tree spread, except on poor or shallow
soils, unless provisions are made to control tree size. Tree size can
be controlled by pruning.
species are best adapted to areas which have a marked dry season.
Mature trees are quite tolerant of drought and do not require
supplemental irrigation under Florida conditions. Some irrigation is
desirable for establishment of young trees during the first year after
can be grown successfully in fertile soils without the use of
fertilizer. Some fertilizer is necessary in the infertile soils of
Florida for adequate growth and fruit production. Fertilizer
requirements have not been determined experimentally, so a suggested
program is presented for use until experience can determine the most
practical fertilizer program to follow.
Fertilizer should be
applied every 2-3 months during the first year, beginning with 100 g
(¼ lb.) and increasing to 450 g (1 lb.) of 6-6-6-3 or
analysis. Thereafter, 3-4 applications per year are sufficient, in
amounts proportional to the increasing size of the tree, roughly 450 g
(1 lb.) per application per year of tree-age. Bearing trees can be
switched to an 8-3-9-5 or similar analysis fertilizer at the same rates
3-4 times per year. Microelements should be applied as needed.
trees will develop their natural shape without the need for pruning or
training. Maintenance pruning to remove dead or damaged wood is all
that is necessary. Branches cut back past the previous season's growth
will not bear fruit for at least a year.
One main crop per year
is produced in Florida, the fruit of a given species or selection
maturing over a period of several weeks to a few months. Fruit of the
red mombin and yellow mombin matures from June through October and the
ambarella from November through May. The fruit generally is harvested
when ripe on the tree, as determined by softening of the pulp and by a
change from green external colour to some shade of yellow or red. The
fruit can be harvested when it is fully mature, but still green and
firm, and will ripen to satisfactory eating quality, but has better
flavor if ripened on the tree. The fruit is harvested by hand, often by
shaking it from the tree and picking it up from the ground.
fruit of good selections has a sweet, pleasant flavor. In most areas,
the fruit is sold in local markets and consumed fresh. It makes a
significant contribution to the diet of people in local areas of the
tropics when it is in season. In some areas, the fruit is dried in
large quantities and shipped to distant markets. . The fresh or dried
fruit can be made into jellies, sauces or preserves. It is a good
source of minerals and vitamin C.
The imbu, Spondias
Arruda, is native to dry areas of Brazil. It has enlarged roots and is
extremely resistant to drought. It has been introduced to other areas
but is not well-known. The ovoid fruit is 3½-4 cm
in.) in length and greenish-yellow in color when ripe. It is eaten
fresh and made into jellies or desserts and is much esteemed in its
native areas. It does not grow well in southern Florida, evidently
because of poor adaptation to the soil and climate.
pinnata L.F. Kurz (S.
Willd.), native to tropical Asia, grows and fruits well in southern
Florida, but is not well-known. It bears ovoid fruit fruit 4-5 cm
(1½-2 in.) in length, in terminal clusters of 10-15 fruit.
fruit is extremely sour, even when completely ripe. It is used mostly
for cooking although some people like to eat it fresh.
Baker is native to the islands of Mauritius and Reunion. It makes a
large tree with deeply furrowed bark, similar in appearance to the
yellow mombin. A few trees have been growing in Florida for many years
but have never borne flowers and fruit.