Custard apple, Bullock's Heart, Caribbean Chirimoya  - Annona reticulata
Annona reticulata, Custard Apple
Fig. 1 magnifying glass

Large custard apple
Fig. 2

Green custard apple with white flesh
Fig. 3

Annona reticulata
Fig. 4

Flesh of the red variety
Fig. 5

Custard apple (Annona reticulata), Hickatee Cottages, Punta Gorda, Toledo, Belize
Fig. 6
Custard apple (Annona reticulata), Hickatee Cottages, Punta Gorda, Toledo, Belize

Annona reticulata young tree
Fig. 7
Annona reticulata
young tree

Flower bud
Fig. 8

Male stage
Fig. 9
Male stage

Ramphal tree leaf Chinawal, India
Fig. 10

Annonaceae (custard apple, sugar apple, or soursop family)  Annona reticulata
Fig. 11
Annonaceae (custard apple, sugar apple, or soursop family) Annona reticulata
Leaf habit

Young tree
Fig. 12

Two 6-week custard apple seedlings, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Fig. 13
Two 6-week custard apple seedlings, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Annona reticulata [Hindi: Ramphal], a species of Custard Apple for sale at a fruit vendor near Sangareddy, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Fig. 14 magnifying glass
Annona reticulata [Hindi: Ramphal], a species of Custard Apple for sale at a fruit vendor near Sangareddy, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Custard apple with a Black-naped Oriole
Fig. 15 magnifying glass
Custard apple with a Black-naped Oriole

Scientific name
Annona reticulata L.
ahn-NOE-nah reh-tick-yoo-LAY-tuh
Common names
English: bullock's-heart; custard apple; ox-heart; soursop; wild sweetsop. Spanish: anona; anona colorada; anona corazón; anonillo; corazon; corazón de buey; guanabano; mamán; suncuya (Mexico). French: annone réticulée; anone coeur-de-boeuf; cachiman; coeur de boeuf; corossol reticulé; zannone. Chinese: niu xin fan li zhi.  Bahamas: custard-apple. Brazil: biribá; coracao-de-boi; coração-de-boi; fruta-de-condessa; fruta-do-conde. Cambodia: mean bat; mo bat Caroline Islands: anoonas. Cook Islands: naponapo papa‘la; tapotapo kirimoko; tapotapo papa‘a. Cuba: cherimoya; mamón. Dominican Republic: mamón de perro Fiji: chotka sarifa; uto ni mbulumakau. French Polynesia: mafatu puakatoro; taptapu. Germany: Annone, Netz-; Annone, Ochsenherz-; Netzannone; Ochsenherz; Ochsenherzapfel. Haiti: cachimán; cachimán coeur de boeuf; coeur de feuf. India: ramfal. Indonesia: buah nona; serba rabsa. Italy: annona cuore di bue; annona reticolata 3
A. reticulata Sieber ex A.DC. [Illegitimate]; A. reticulata var. mucosa (Jacq.) Willd.; A. reticulata var. primigenia (Standl. & Steyerm.) Lundell 4
Cherimoya (A. cherimola), soursop (A. muricata), sugar apple (A. squamosa), pond apple (A. glabra), ilama (A. diversifolia), atemoya (A. cherimola x A. squamosa
Native to Mexico, Central America, and South America
Edible fruit; fairly attractive landscape specimen
26-33 ft (8-10 m)
Spreading crown
Growth rate
Erect; trunk covered in smooth gray bark, 9-13 in. (25-35 cm) thick
Pruning requirement
The form of the tree may be improved by judicious pruning
Deciduous, alternate, oblong or narrow-lanceolate; visible veins; have a bad smell 1
Drooping clusters;fragrant, slender; 3 outer fleshy, narrow petals 2-3 cm long; light-green externally and pale-yellow with a dark-red or purple spot on the inside 5
Compound fruit; shape varies: heart-shaped, spherical, oblong or irregular; colorful skin with creamy, white or pale yellow pulp; very sweet, can be red or white, and tends to be gooey; 7-10 in. (17-25 cm)
April through June
USDA Nutrient Content pdf
Light requirement
Soil tolerances
Does best in low-lying, deep, rich soil with ample moisture and good drainage. as it will not tolerate waterlogging
PH preference
Drought tolerance
Less drought-tolerant than the sugar apple
Cold tolerance
Can survive light night frosts to 26-28°F (-2-3°C)
Salt Tolerance
Not highly salt-tolerant and should be protected from strong salt wind, but do well close to the ocean if they are on the lee side of a building 7
Invasive potential *
None reported
Pest resistance
Heavily attacked by the chalcid fly
Known hazard
The hard seeds are very toxic, but can be swallowed whole with no ill effects; all non-fruit parts of the plant are quite toxic


Reading Material

Custard Apples from Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective (FOA)
Custard Apples Growing in the Tropics from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
The Bullock's Heart from W. Popenoe's book Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
Custard Apple from J. Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climates


Although it is said that A. reticulata is a native of the Antilles. the presence in Guatemala and Belize of a wild variety, A. reticulata var. primigenia, and also of a very wide variability of cultivars suggests that this zone is the species' area of origin. It has been introduced in other regions of the American tropics and Southeast Asia, without achieving a level of importance comparable to that of A. cherimola or A. squamosa. 2
The Custard Apple is believed to be a native of the West Indies but it was carried in early times through Central America to southern Mexico.
While in Hawaii it is not well known, it is commonly grown in the Bahamas and occasionally in Bermuda and southern Florida. 1

A. reticulata is a low tree with an open, irregular crown and slender, glabrous leaves which in some varieties are long and narrow, 10 to 20 x 2 to 7 cm, straight and pointed at the apex; and in other varieties wrinkled and up to 10 cm wide. The flowers are generally in groups of three or four, with three long outer petals and three very small inner ones. The fruit is heart-shaped or spherical and 8 to 15 cm in diameter; according to the cultivar, the flesh varies from juicy and very aromatic to hard with a repulsive taste. There is a wide variability in the presence of groups of hard cells that are similar to grains of sand. Both the outside and inside colour varies according to the cultivar. 2

The flowers that never fully open, appear in drooping clusters and they are fragrant and slender, with 3 outer fleshy, narrow petals, light-green externally and pale-yellow with a dark-red or purple spot on the inside at the base. 1

The compound fruit is 3 l/4 to 6 1/2 in (8-16 cm) in diameter and can be symmetrically heart-shaped, lopsided, irregular, nearly round, or oblate with a deep or shallow depression at the base. The skin of the fruit is thin but tough and can be yellow or brownish when ripe, with a pink, reddish or brownish-red blush. There is a thick, cream-white layer of custard like flesh beneath the skin surrounding the juicy segments. In each segment there is a single, hard, dark-brown or black, glossy seed, oblong and smooth, less than a half of inch long.
There are between 55 and 76 seeds in a fruit. The ripe fruit is sweet and pleasant in flavor. The unripe fruit is rich in tannin. 1
The thick stem is inserted into a depression at the base and continues as an inedible core through the center of the fruit. 6
Mr. Har Mahdeem, popular horticultural circuit speaker and authority on Annonaceae, says about the Annona reticulata, custard-apple or Bullock's hearth (because of it's reddish color) and the importance of the location of the fruit on the branch as being very important for this annona. The fruit should be closer to the trunk of the tree instead of at the end of branches. The fruit will have all the benefits of the sap travelling from the leaves exposed to the sun. An added benefit is reducing the likelihood of the branch breaking.

No named cultivars are reported but there is considerable variation in the quality of fruit from different trees. The yellow-skinned types seem superior to the brownish, and, when well filled out, have thicker and juicier flesh. Seeds of a purple-skinned, purple-fleshed form, from Mexico, were planted in Florida and the tree has produced fruit of unremarkable quality. 1

Varieties Page

Mr. Mahdeem says that he had seen annona trees dying from too much fruiting. He recommends to remove the fruit when it is the size of a fingernail. The fruit has more flavor than the sugar apple; it's perfume is strong with a sweet-tart taste. It can be 'sandy'. The varieties he suggests are the 'Sartenaya' (seedling) or the 'San Pablo' (seedling) as being above average in quality and not gritty. 
Laurence Zill of Zill Nursery Inc. introduced the custard-apple to the market.

Hand Pollination of the Custard Apple from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Artificial pollination of sugar apple and atemoya from AgriFoodGateway pdf
Flowering Behavior, Pollination and Fruit Set from the University of Florida

Seed is the usual means of propagation. Nevertheless, the tree can be multiplied by inarching, or by budding or grafting onto its own seedlings or onto soursop, sugar apple or pond apple rootstocks. Experiments in Mexico, utilizing cherimoya, llama, soursop, custard apple, Annona sp. Af. lutescens and Rollinia jimenezii Schlecht. as rootstocks showed best results when custard apple scions were side-grafted onto self-rootstock, soursop, or A. sp. Af. lutescens. Custard apple seedlings are frequently used as rootstocks for the soursop, sugar apple and atemoya. 1

The tree is fast-growing and responds well to mulching, organic fertilizers and to frequent irrigation if there is dry weather during the growing period. 1

The form of the tree may be improved by judicious pruning. 1

The custard apple is heavily attacked by the chalcid fly. Many, if not all of the fruits on a tree may be dried up before maturity. In India, the ripening fruits are covered with bags or nets to avoid damage from fruit bats. 5

A dry charcoal rot was observed on the fruits in Assam in 1947. In 1957 and 1958 it made its appearance at Saharanpur. The causal fungus was identified as Diplodia annonae. The infection begins at the stem end of the fruit and gradually spreads until it covers the entire fruit. 1

Food Uses
When fully ripe the fruit is soft to the touch and the stem and attached core can be easily pulled out. The flesh may be scooped from the skin and eaten as it is or served with light cream and sugar. Often is added to milk shakes, custards or ice cream. 1

Medicinal Uses **
A root decoction is taken as a febrifuge, while fragments of the root bark are packed around the gums to relieve toothache. The bark is very astringent and the decoction is taken as a tonic and also as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery.
The leaf decoction is given as a vermifuge. Crushed leaves or a paste of the flesh may be poulticed on boils, abscesses and ulcers.
The unripe dried fruit dried is employed against diarrhea and dysentery. In severe cases, the leaves, bark and green fruits are all boiled together for 5 minutes in a liter of water to make an extremely potent decoction. 1 

The seed kernels are very toxic. The seeds, leaves and young fruits have insecticidal effect. The leaf juice kills lice. Sap from cut branches is acrid and irritant and can severely injure the eyes.
The bark contains 0.12% anonaine. Injection of an extract from the bark caused paralysis in a rear limb of an experimental toad. 1

Other Uses (indigenous)

The leaves have been employed in tanning and they yield a blue or black dye. A fiber derived from the young twigs is superior to the bark fiber from Annona squamosa, the Sugar Apple.
Custard Apple wood is yellow, soft, fibrous but durable, moderately close-grained and it has been used to make yokes for oxen. 1

Other members of the family that are grown for their fruit are:
Atemoya (A. cherimola x A. squamosa)
Soursop (A. muricata)
Sugar Apple (A. squamosa)
Ilama (A. diversifolia)
Cherimoya (A. cherimola)
Biriba (Rollinia mucosa, A. mucosa)
Poshte (A. scleroderma)

Further Reading
Annona reticulata from
The Custard Apple from the Tropical Fruit News Magazine RFCI
Custard Apple Botanical Art

List of Growers and Vendors


1 Morton, J. "Custard Apple." p. 80-83. Fruits of warm climates. 1987. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.
2 Mahdeem, H. "Neglected Crops : 1492 from a Different Perspective". J.E. Hernándo Bermejo and J. León (eds.). Plant Production and Protection Series No. 26. FAO, Rome, Italy. p. 85-92. 1994. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.
3 "Annona reticulata (bullock's heart)". Invasive Species Compendium. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
4 "Annona reticulata." Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
5 Orwa C, A Mutua, Kindt R , Jamnadass R, S Anthony. "Annona reticulata L." Agroforestree Database: a tree reference and selection guide version 4.0. 2009. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
6 Boning, Charles R. Florida's Best Fruiting Plants- Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Pineapple Press, Inc. sarasota, Florida. Print.
7 Joyner, Gene. "The Custard Apple." Tropical Fruit News Magaine. May 1994. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.


Fig. 1 Sivavkm. Annona reticulata, Custard Apple. 2014. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 2,3,4,5,7,12 "Custard apple." N.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2016
Fig. 6 Morton, Ian. Custard apple (Annona reticulata), Hickatee Cottages, Punta Gorda, Toledo, Belize. 2011. Under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 8 Vinayaraj. "Annona reticulata bud." 2008. Web.31 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 9 Ks. mini. "Annona reticulata." 2011. Web.31 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 10 ABHIJEET. Ramphal tree leaf Chinawal, India. 2014. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 11 Valke, Dinesh. Annonaceae (custard apple, sugar apple, or soursop family)  Annona reticulata. 2008. Under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 13 Davidals. Two 6-week custard apple seedlings, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 2010. Under GNU Free Documentation License. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 14 Akshay.paramatmuni1987. Annona reticulata [Hindi: Ramphal], a species of Custard Apple for sale at a fruit vendor near Sangareddy, Fig.  Andhra Pradesh, India. 2013. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 15 Mat-Salleh, Kamarudin. "A ripe custard-apple (Annona reticulata) in a custard-apple tree, about to be fed upon by a Black-naped Oriole." 2008. Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia. Under (CC BY 2.0). 8 Feb. 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 12 Apr. 2014 LR. Updated 26 July 2014, 26 Jan. 8 Feb. 2016 LR
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