From the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by B. J. Watson, Kamerunga Horticultural Research Station

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What's in a name?

Not much, I once thought - at least as far as fruit are concerned. However, it is very obvious that some people are concerned about retaining the names they have known from childhood - and perhaps why shouldn't they? Not having grown up in the 'sunburnt country' and thus not having too many prejudices (at least about tropical fruit) I have often tried to convert my colleagues to call our papaw/pawpaw/paw paw, (take your pick) by the more prestigious name of papaya. My argument is that it is also the specific name (Carica papaya) and the name also commonly used in Asia, the Pacific and the Americas. However it is quite obvious that hell will freeze over before my colleagues are persuaded to change. They are probably right - they've known 'papaw' since childhood. The fruit was probably invented in Queensland and anyway who gives a damn about what it is called in those other backward countries.

Marketing Logic

I guess the papaw episode proves a point - if a name is around for long enough then it becomes firmly established and people are very reluctant to change it. We don't have a dictator (even in Queensland) thumping us every time we differ from recommended spellings of fruit names. However, the established fruit which fall under the jurisdiction of marketing standards (Standards Branch - D.P.I. and the C.O.D.) are well protected as far as names are concerned. I'd probably be very quickly in trouble if I sent my carton of papaws into Brisbane market labelled as papaya.

You might also recall the problems the group of N.S.W. growers of atemoyas (still officially custard apples) had when they attempted to market their product as cherimoyer (cherimoya?) - I'm not sure if they are out of jail yet!

However is all this relevant to our Amazon tree grapes, velvet apples, black pudding fruits, South American custard apples, five corners, sugar apples, etc.? No, not really. With these and several hundred others not yet under the official C.O.D. marketing umbrella it is a free-for-all and in many ways it is part of the fun to have the multiplicity of common names, many describing their physical appearance relationship to our traditional fruits - apple, pear, plum, etc.

Did you know that the mamoncillo (Melicoccus bijugatus) is also variously called Spanish lime, anoncillo, genip, honeyberry, Jamaica bullace plum, kanappy, knepe, knippleboom, mamon, maco, quenepa and takeboom! (I should invent a game of Trivial Pursuit with all this information I have tucked away). The situation changes rather rapidly though when a product becomes established in the market place and growers become committed to a substantial investment in the crop. They then usually become more market-conscious and if the usual common name is thought not to have a universal appeal then moves may be made to have it changed. You may recall Chinese gooseberry being converted to Kiwifruit. Apparently in new markets sales boomed as soon as the name change was made.

One of the resolutions arising out of the 1980 Tropical Tree Fruit Workshop at Coolum (the workshop papers are printed as the D.P.I. publication Tropical Tree Fruits for Australia) was to prepare a list of standardised common names for fruits in Australia. Yours truly was nominated as the coordinator for the work. After a couple of years of survey - questionnaire compiling, ear bashing and some plain punting, the booklet list was produced. It is called Austrofruit I, and in fact it also incorporates recommended botanical names which are not recommended.

The document presents the common names as suggestions to follow. It attempts to minimise confusion with words such as sapote (fruit) apple, plum, etc. and also considers a choice for marketing. The authors ask readers to consider the names and support those (or at least most) recommended. Remember the longer something is called by an odd or inappropriate name, then the more difficult it eventually becomes to change it.

The Future

In summary, nobody is energetically promoting their versions of the correct names for the lesser known fruits - but the compilers of Austrofruit have made recommendations. These recommendations may or may not be the best choice for marketing. If growers are concerned about a fruit name, then they should get together and lobby the D.P.I./C.O.D. for name change and registration. This, of course, should only be done for a fruit which is obviously becoming of some significance in the market place.

For the other fruits which may (in future) or may not ever make the grade to be recognised as 'commercial' crops, it perhaps at the moment, doesn't matter too much what they are called. However, if nurserymen and enthusiasts continue for long enough with unfortunate name choices then it eventually makes it very difficult for an emerging crop to be renamed. The best example of this situation is probably custard apple.

Nobody is suggesting we put a straight-jacket around freedom of choice on all fruit names, but horticultural production is difficult enough without having additional restraints imposed by poor market reaction to the names we have chosen.

Some of the most desired changes are:

Recommended Name Other Known Common Names Botanical Name
Ambarella Hog plum Spondias cytherea
Acerola Barbados cherry Malphghia glabra
Atemoya Custard apple Annona squamosa X A. cherimola
Bell fruit Water cherry Syzygium aqueum
Black persimmon Black sapote, chocolate pudding fruit Diospyros digyna
Caimito Star apple Chrysophyllum cainito
Carambola Five corner, star fruit Averrhoa carambola
Casimiroa white sapote Casimiroa edulis
Chermai Star gooseberry Phyllanthus acidus
Grumichama Brazil cherry Eugenia brasiliensis
Guanabana Soursop Annona muricata
Lychee Litchi, litchee Litchi chinensis
Mabolo Velvet apple Diospyros discolor
Matisia South American sapote Matisia cordata
Papaya papaw, pawpaw, paw paw Carica papaya
Ramontchi Governors plum Flacourtia indica
Rollinia Amazon custard apple, corosol, biriba Rollinia deliciosa
Taun or dawa Fiji longan Pometia pinnata
Wax jambu Java roseapp1e Syzygium samarangense

Fortunately the names of a number of promising crops including rambutan, durian, mangosteen, longan, pummelo, etc. are not in contention.

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Watson, B.J. "What is in a name." Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Sept. 1985. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Published 16 Dec. 2014 LR
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