|Soursop, Prickly Custard Apple - Annona muricata|
The flower of soursop (A. muricata), a tropical fruit tree
Fruit growing habit
Fruit grows on trunk and branches
Feeding on the fruit of A. muricata (soursop). This band of 5 (common marmosets) is a frequent visitor early mornings and also in the afternoon.
Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima); juvenile in a soursop tree. Coulibistrie, Dominica.
Annona muricata L.
English: prickly custard apple, soursop; Spanish: guanabana, zopote de viejas, cabeza de negro, catoche, anona de puntitas, anona de broquel; sinini; ; Portuguese: araticum do grande, graviola, or jaca do Para; Netherlands Antilles: sorsaka or zunrzak, ; Malaya: durian belanda, durian maki; or seri kaya belanda; Thailand: thu-rian-khack.; Chamorro: laguaná, laguana, laguanaha, syasyap; Chuukese: saasaf, saasaf, saasap, sasaf; Fijian: sarifa, seremaia; French: anone muriquee, cacheimantier èpineux, cachiman èpineux, corasol, corossol, corossol, corossol èpineux, corossolier; Kosraean: sosap; Maori (Cook Islands): kātara‘apa, kātara‘apa papa‘ā, naponapo taratara; Marquesan: koroso; Marshallese: jojaab; Mokilese: truka shai; Niuean: talapo, talapo fotofoto; Palauan: sausab; Pohnpeian: sae, sei; Samoan: sanalapa, sasalapa, sasalapa; Spanish: guanábana, guanábano; Tahitian: tapotapo papa‘a, tapotapo urupe; Tongan: ‘apele ‘initia; Tuamotuan: korosor, tapotaporatara; Yapese: sausau. 2
A.bonplandiana Kunth; A. cearaensis Barb.Rodr.; A. macrocarpa Wercklé; Guanabanus muricatus M.Gómez
West Indies and in northern South America
USDA hardiness zones
15 ft (4.5 m)
15 ft (4.5 m)
Low branching and bushy, with upturned limbs
Small, upright tree
Evergreen; alternate, smooth, glossy dark green on top, lighter under; have an aroma similar to blackcurrants
Solitary flowers appear on trunk, branches
Oval or heart shaped; lopsided or curved; few inches to over 1 foot in lenght; may bear fruits anywhere on its trunk or branches
June to September
USDA Nutrient Content pdf
Light shade or sun
Tolerant of poor soils; grows best in deep, well-drained, semi dry soil
The most drought tolerant of all the annonas
Not tolerant, trees killed by only a few degrees of frost
Not tolerant of strong winds
12-15 ft (3.6-4.5 m)
Shallow, fibrous root system; benefits from copious mulching
Invasive potential *
Subject to fruit flies, mealybug and scale insects; anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides)
The juice from the seeds are poisonous and irritating and should be avoided
Annona muricata from the agroforestry.net database pdf 5 pages
The Soursop from W. Popenoe's book Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
Soursop from the University of Hawaii at Manoa pdf 6 pages
Soursop from Julia Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climates
The soursop originated in the lowlands of Central America.
Oviedo, in 1526, described the soursop as abundant in the West Indies and in northern South America. It is today found in Bermuda and the Bahamas, and both wild and cultivated, from sea-level to an altitude of 3,500 ft (1,150 m) throughout the West Indies and from southern Mexico to Peru and Argentina. 1
In Florida, the soursop has been grown to a limited extent for possibly 110 years. Sturtevant noted that it was not included by Atwood among Florida fruits in 1867 but was listed by the American Pomological Society in 1879. A tree fruited at the home of John Fogarty of Manatee before the freeze of 1886. In the southeastern part of the state and especially on the Florida Keys, it is often planted in home gardens. 1
Of the 60 or more species of the genus Annona, family Annonaceae, the soursop, A. muricata L., is the most tropical, the largest-fruited, and the only one lending itself well to preserving and processing. 1
The malodorous leaves, normally evergreen, are alternate, smooth, glossy, dark green on the upper surface, lighter beneath; oblong, elliptic or narrow obovate, pointed at both ends, 2 1/2 to 8 in (6.25-20 cm) long and 1 to 2 1/2 in (2.5-6.25 cm) wide. 1
The flowers, which are borne singly, may emerge anywhere on the trunk, branches or twigs. They are short stalked, 1 1/2 to 2 in (4 5 cm) long, plump, and triangular-conical, the 3 fleshy, slightly spreading, outer petals yellow-green, the 3 close-set inner petals pale-yellow. 1
Comparisons of its flavor range from strawberry and pineapple mixed together to sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy roundness of flavour reminiscent of coconut or banana. The fruit is somewhat difficult to eat, as the white interior pulp is studded with many large seeds, and pockets of soft flesh are bounded by fibrous membranes. The soursop is therefore usually juiced rather than eaten directly.
The fruit is more or less oval or heart-shaped, some times irregular, lopsided or curved, due to improper carper development or insect injury. The size ranges from 4 to 12 in (10-30 cm) long and up to 6 in (15 cm) in width, and the weight may be up to 10 or 15 lbs (4.5-6.8 kg). The fruit is compound and covered with a reticulated, leathery-appearing but tender, inedible, bitter skin from which protrude few or many stubby, or more elongated and curved, soft, pliable "spines". The tips break off easily when the fruit is fully ripe. The skin is dark-green in the immature fruit, becoming slightly yellowish-green before the mature fruit is soft to the touch. Its inner surface is cream-colored and granular and separates easily from the mass of snow-white, fibrous, juicy segments much like flakes of raw fish surrounding the central, soft-pithy core. In aroma, the pulp is somewhat pineapple-like, but its musky, sub acid to acid flavor is unique. Most of the closely-packed segments are seedless. In each fertile segment there is a single oval, smooth, hard, black seed, l/2 to 3/4 in (1.25-2 cm) long; and a large fruit may contain from a few dozen to 200 or more seeds.
The soursop, unfortunately, is a shy-bearer, the usual crop being 12 to 20 or 24 fruits per tree. 1
Having no fiber or a reduced amount of fiber in the flesh is the most desired characteristic. Puerto Rico cataloged 14 types. Popular cultivars include ‘Morada’ (Brazil), ‘Cuban Fibreless’ (Australia), ‘Sirsak Ratu’ (Java), and ‘Bennett’, a blue-green skinned type introduced to Florida in 1920.
The soursop tends to flower and fruit more or less continuously, but in every growing area there is a principal season of ripening. In Florida, it extends from June to September. 1
The unripe dark green fruit is covered with an inedible skin with soft spines. Harvest takes place when the color lightens and changes to a slightly yellowish-green. The spines soften and the fruit appears bloated, with segment margins becoming smooth and less noticeable. Generally it takes 4 or 5 days for the fruit to fully ripen after picking, when the skin yields to slight pressure. 4
High temperatures from 80°F to 90°F and low (30%) relative humidity can cause pollination problems, whereas a lower temperature (in the 70s with 80% relative humidity) improves pollination. 4
Flowers are protandrous, and the pollen is shed as the outer petals open towards the evening. The inner petals open much later and only very slightly, admitting small insects attracted by the fragrance of the flowers.
Beetles of several species are important in carrying out natural pollination. Presumably these insects effect cross-pollination, though rather inadequately, for few flowers set fruit and many fruits are misshapen (Fig. 18,19) since numerous ovules are not fertilized. 3
Although usually propagated by seed, better fibreless varieties can be grafted. Air layering is possible, but the success rate is considered marginal. If planted within 30 days of harvest, 90 percent of the seeds are viable and germinate in 15–30 days. Some seeds will stay viable up to 6 months. Seeds should be washed before planting. Soursop is usually grafted onto other soursop, as well as pond apple (Annona glabra). 4
Mulching is recommended to avoid dehydration of the shallow, fibrous root system during dry, hot weather. If in too dry a situation, the tree will cast off all of its old leaves before new ones appear. 1
Once shaped, the tree requires little pruning other than cutting out dead or poorly placed branches. This should be done after harvest. Trees can be topped at about 6 feet, causing fruit production on lateral branches to facilitate harvesting. 4
Excellent results have been obtained in Hawaii with quarterly applications of 10-10-10 N P K—1\2 lb (.225 kg) per tree the first year, 1 lb (.45 kg)/tree the 2nd year, 3 lbs (1.36 kg)/tree the 3rd year and thereafter. 1
Annona Pests Page
Soursops of least acid flavor and least fibrous consistency are cut in sections and the flesh eaten with a spoon. The seeded pulp may be torn or cut into bits and added to fruit cups or salads, or chilled and served as dessert with sugar and a little milk or cream.
Immature soursops are cooked as vegetables or used in soup in Indonesia. They are roasted or fried in northeastern Brazil. I have boiled the half-grown fruit whole, without peeling. In an hour, the fruit is tender, its flesh off-white and mealy, with the aroma and flavor of roasted ears of green corn (maize). 1
Medicinal Uses **
Sour sop is often used in traditional medicine. Research has shown that it is antimalarial, uterine stimulant, anticrustacean, antiparasitic, cytotoxic (acetogenins), cardiac depressant, antiamoebic, antibacterial, antifungal, hypertensive, spasmogenic, vasodilator, insecticide, smooth muscle relaxant. 5
When pulverized, the seeds are effective pesticides against head lice, southern army worms and pea aphids and petroleum ether and chloroform extracts are toxic to black carpet beetle larvae. The seed oil kills head lice.
The leaf decoction is lethal to head lice and bedbugs. The bark of the tree has been used in tanning. The bark fiber is strong but, since fruiting trees are not expendable, is resorted to only in necessity. Bark, as well as seeds and roots, has been used as fish poison. 1
The name soursop is derived from the Dutch zuurzak meaning sour sack. 4
Note: The juice from the seeds are poisonous and irritating and should be avoided. Research carried out in the Caribbean has established a connection between consumption of soursop and atypical forms of Parkinson's disease due to the very high concentration of Annonacin. 1
In Florida, Santol has this to say about the soursop. "Everybody loves a good soursop... Many varieties are quite fibrous, but that is not a major concern because the juice is used much more than the pulp. Still, it's good to have a fiberless variety. The two best fiber-less cultivars are 'Cuban Fiberless' and 'Fuerth'. Both are usually available from fruit tree nurseries. Two other cultivars are 'Seedless' and 'Sweet'. The names speak for themselves, but I would advise tasting the fruit prior to buying the tree, especially the seedless. Seedless varieties of any fruit are often quite insipid."
Other members of the family that are grown for their fruit are:
Cherimoya (A. cherimola)
Sugar apple (A. squamosa)
Atemoya (A. squamosa x A. cherimola)
Custard Apple (A. reticulata)
Ilama (A. diversifolia)
Biriba (Rollinia mucosa, A. mucosa)
Poshte (A. scleroderma)
Custard Apples from Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective
Information and photos from the National Tropical Botanical Garden ext. link
Soursop Botanical Art
List of Growers and Vendors
1 Morton, J. "Soursop." hort.purdue.edu. Fruits of warm climates. p. 75-80. 1987. Web. 28 Aug. 2014.
2 "Annona muriticata." ntbg.org. National Tropical Botanical Garden. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
3 "Annona muriticata." agroforestry.net. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
4 Love, Ken and Paull, Robert E.. "Soursop." ctahr.hawaii.edu. Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers, CTAHR Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences. 2011. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.
5 Medicinal Plants in the South Pacific. World Health Organization. WHO Regional Publications, Manilla. 1998. Print.
Fig. 1 Costa PPPR. Annona muricata (graviola), fruto.. 2014. commons.wikimedia.org. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 2 Karim, Muhammad Mahdi. Annona muricata cross section. 2010. commons.wikimedia.org. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 3,4,9,15,17,19 Annona muricata. N.d. Top Tropicals Tropical Plant Catalog. toptropicals.com. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 5 Starr, Forest and Kim. Flowers and leaves at Pali o Waipio Huelo, Maui. 2008. starrenvironmental.com. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 10,12 Starr, Forest and Kim. Leaves at KiHana Nursery, Kihei, Maui. 2011. starrenvironmental.com. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 6 Rulkens, Ton. The flower of soursop (Annona muricata), a tropical fruit tree. 2010. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 2.0). Web. 13 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 7 Carr, Gerald,D. Annona muricata. N.d. botany.hawaii.edu. University of Hawaii, Botany Department, Manoa Campus Plants. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 8 Daida, G. Annona muricata. N.d. botany.hawaii.edu. University of Hawaii, Botany Department, Manoa Campus Plants. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 10 Tu7uh. Soursop Bud. 2013. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 13 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 11,13,20 Kwan. Annona muricata. 2007. natureloveyou.sg. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 14 Thaumaturgist, Ghosh, Asit K. . Tree is located in Gene Joyner's Unbelievable Acres Botanic Garden. 2008. commons.wikimedia.org. West Palm Beach Florida. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 15 Lytle, David. Fruit on their tree. N.d. wikepedia.org. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 16 Crisco 1492. Sorsal. 2014. commons.wikimedia.org. Sukorambi Botanical Gardens. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 18 Clark, Dan. Soursop, Annona muriticata. 2007. bugwood.org. USDI National Park Service. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 21 Starr, Forest and Kim. Habit at Garden of Eden Keanae, Maui. 2011. starrenvironmental.com. Maui. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 22 Popovkin, Alex. Annona muricata L. 2014. commons.wikimedia.org. Bahia, Brazil. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 23 Popovkin, Alex. Feeding on the fruit of Annona muricata (soursop). This band of 5 (common marmosets) are a frequent visitor early mornings and also in the afternoon. Bahia, Brazil. 2012. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY 2.0). Web. 13 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 24 Palaeolithic Lady. Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima); juvenile in a soursop tree. Coulibistrie, Dominica. 2010. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 13 Jan. 2016.
* UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas
** Information provided is not intended to be used as a guide for treatment of medical conditions.
Published Feb. 2013 LR. Updated 16 Jan. 2016 LR