From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by WM. F. Whitman
The Star Apple
Scientific name: Chrysophyllum cainito
One of South Florida's most pleasant-eating fruits is the star
apple borne by a Sapotaceous tree indigenous to Tropical America. The
fruiting season frequently commences in mid-winter and extends into
spring. The three-inch-plus diameter fruit normally come in two
variations, one having a purple skin upon ripening, and the other, a
pale green. However, a third type with copper-colored fruit has been
observed in Haiti. Prolific bearing trees heavily laden with these
apple-size fruit give the appearance of Christmas ball ornaments
hanging down from the branches by the hundreds.
The fruit of the
star apple has a mild, sweet flavor usually enjoyed by the novice to
tropical fruits on the first encounter. The gelatinous,
semi-translucent, soft white pulp contains from two to five hard,
brown, glossy seeds ¾" long. Upon cutting the fruit in half
along its equator, these seeds as well as segment markings in the pulp,
are arranged in a formation that radiates out from the center and
suggests a star, hence its name.
makes a highly ornamental, medium to large size tree. Its two-tone
leaves are three to five inches long, oval to oblong, a deep glossy
green on top and a beautiful velvet golden-brown underneath. Young
trees, which are tender to cold should be protected from frost, while
bearing-size trees appear to withstand freezes of short duration with
only superficial damage. The star apple grows well on a wide range of
soils, from the coral and lime rock of the Florida Keys to the hammock
sands of the inner coastal regions.
Vegetative propagation by
air-layering and grafting from superior fruiting trees is recommended,
as trees grown from seed can fail to fruit, or produce light crops of
inferior quality. Vegetatively-propagated trees can be expected to bear
in the fourth or fifth year after being planted out.
inconspicuous, whitish flowers have been observed to be attacked by a
sod webworm type of larva, while fungus infections can cause the fruit
to mummify. Damage by birds pecking holes in the fruit is common.
During a cold winter, a reduction in the size and number of leaves
usually results in small, inferior quality fruit. This relative of the
sapodilla is referred to in English colonies as 'star apple', in French
colonies as 'caimite' and in Spanish-speaking countries as 'caimito'.
The most widely-distributed variety in South Florida is the 'Haitian',
which can commence to bear upon attaining five feet.
A tree frequently mistaken for the star apple is the satin leaf (Chrysophyllum olivaeforme),
a native to South Florida hammocks. The two can usually be
distinguished apart by the smaller leaf of the satin leaf, as well as
its olive-size, barely edible, black-colored fruit, and the
comparatively diminutive size of its mature tree.
Star Apple Page