Sugar Apple, Sweetsop - Annona squamosa L.
Sugar apple
Fig. 1

Cross section of sugar apple
Fig. 2 magnifying glass
Green variety

Sugar apple deconstructed
Fig. 3 magnifying glass

Flowering annona, female stage
Fig. 4
Flowering annona, female stage

Flower buds and fruit
Fig. 5 magnifying glass

Fruit and flowers
Fig. 6 magnifying glass

Color changes as the fruit ripens
Fig. 7 magnifying glass
Color changes as the fruit ripens

Sugar apple sectioned
Fig. 8 magnifying glass
When the fruit reaches full size, the bumps become separated by a creamy-yellow colour between them.

Sugar apple sectioned
Fig. 9 magnifying glass

Green and white varieties
Fig. 10 magnifying glass
Red and green varieties

Fig. 11

Leaves and fruit
Fig. 12
Leaves and fruit habit

Sugar apple
Fig. 13

Red sugar apples
Fig. 14
Scientific name
Annona squamosa L.
ahn-NOE-nah skwa-MO-suh   
Common names
Anon (Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama); anon de azucar, anon domestico, hanon, mocuyo (Colombia); anona blanca (Honduras, Guatemala, Dominican Republic); anona de castilla (El Salvador); anona de Guatemala (Nicaragua); applebush (Grenadines); ata, fruta do conde, fruta de condessa, frutiera deconde, pinha, araticutitaia, or ati (Brazil); ates or atis (Philippines); atte (Gabon); chirimoya (Guatemala, Ecuador); cachiman (Argentina); cachiman cannelle (Haiti); kaneelappel (Surinam); pomme cannelle (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, French West Africa); rinon (Venezuela); saramulla, saramuya, ahate (Mexico); scopappel (Netherlands Antilles); sweetsop (Jamaica, Bahamas); ata, luna, meba, sharifa, sarifa, sitaphal, sita pandu, custard apple, scaly custard apple (India); bnah nona, nona, seri kaya (Malaya) manonah, noinah, pomme cannelle du Cap (Thailand); qu a na (Vietnam); mang cau ta (Cambodia); mak khbieb (Laos); fan-li-chi (China) 6
A. asiatica L.; A. biflora Moç. & Sessé;  A. cinerea Dunal; A. forskahlii DC.; Guanabanus squamosus M.Gómez; Xylopia frutescens Sieb. Ex Presl; Xylopia glabra L. 8
Cherimoya (A. cherimola), soursop (A. muricata), custard apple (A. reticulata), pond apple (A. glabra), ilama (A. diversifolia), atemoya (A. cherimola x A. squamosa)
Indigenous to tropical America
USDA hardiness zones
Best as fresh fruit; excellent
15-20 ft (4.5-6.1 m)
15-20 ft (4.5-6.1 m)
Broad open crown
Plant habit
Much branched shrub or small tree; multiple stems; with long, slender branches
Growth rate
Bark light brown; even texture; irregular branches, zigzag twigs
Deciduous: alternate, 6-8 in. (15-20 cm) long; thin; soft; aromatic when crushed
Greenish-yellow; borne singularly, or in clusters; 1 in. (2.5 cm) long; late spring
Heart-shaped; 3-4 in. (7.6-10 cm) in diameter;  skin bumpy and green with juicy, sweet, white flesh, neatly encasing several shiny black seeds; the fruit is classed as excellent. 4
August trought winter
USDA Nutrient Content pdf
Light requirement
Sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances
Well-adapted to most well-drained soil types, including the sands and limestone based soils of south Florida
PH preference
5.5-6.5 (alkaline)
Drought tolerance
Flood tolerance
Not tolerant of excessively wet or flooded conditions
Soil salt tolerance
Not tolerant of saline soil and water conditions
Cold tolerance
27° F (-2.8° C); cannot withstand frost or long cold periods
Plant spacing
15-20 ft (4.5-6 m)
Shallow and weak root system
Invasive potential *
None reported
Pest/Disease resistance
Susceptible to the seed borer, Bephratelloides cubensis
Known hazard
Seeds contain toxic, insecticidal substances

Reading Material

Sugar Apple Growing in the Florida Landscape from the University of Florida pdf
Sugar Apple from Julia Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climates
The Delightful Sugar Apple from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
The Sugar Apple from W. Popenoe's book Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
Annona Squamosa: The Sugar Apple from University of Florida Palm Beach County


The original home of the sugar apple is unknown. It is commonly cultivated in tropical South America, not often in Central America, very frequently in southern Mexico, the West Indies, Bahamas and Bermuda, and occasionally in southern Florida. 6

Annona squamosa is a small, semi-(or late) deciduous, much branched shrub or small tree 3 metres (9.8 ft) to 8 metres (26 ft) tall very similar to soursop (Annona muricata) with a broad, open crown or irregularly spreading branches and a short trunk short, not buttressed at base. The fruit of A. squamosa (sugar-apple) has delicious whitish pulp, and is popular in tropical markets. 2

Flowers emerge during mid- to late spring as trees flush in new vegetative growth. Flowers are small, about 1 inch long (2.54 cm), produced singly or in clusters of 2 to 4 from the leaf axils on year-old shoots or new growth. The flowers are composed of 3 green, fleshy petals, 3 small, inconspicuous sepals, and numerous pistils on a common receptacle. 1

The aggregate fruit is heart-shaped, round, ovate, or conical, from 2 to 5 inches (5.1-12.7 cm) in diameter and weighs from 4 to 24 oz (113-682 g). The fruit is composed of loosely cohering segments, which project as rounded protuberances and are easily separated when the fruit is ripe. The pulp of green and purplish-red sugar apples is white or creamy white, with a custard-like consistency and sweet, pleasant flavor. There are numerous, small, shiny, dark brown seeds embedded in the pulp.
Misshapen fruit is caused by incomplete pollination. 1
It is unique among Annona fruits in being segmented, and the segments tend to separate when ripe, exposing the interior. 3

Most sugar apple trees are grown from seed and within a particular selection (e.g., 'Thai Lessard', 'Kampong Mauve') there appears to be little variability among seedlings. Several selections have been introduced including 'Thai Lessard' (a green type), 'Purple' or 'Red', 'Kampong Mauve' (purplish-red types), and a seedless type known under various names, 'Cuban Seedless' and 'Brazilian Seedless'. 1
"Mr. Har Mahdeem, popular horticultural circuit speaker and authority on Annonaceae, described the fruit of the red varieties (Kampong Mauve) as being juicy, very sweet with a thin skin. The skin of the M1 is scaly and thick and the flesh is starchy. He does not recommend the seedless varieties as the more seeds the sugar apple has, the better the flavor. He told us you could get a tree, grown from seed, to bear fruit in two or three years."
Annona squamosa varieties

When the fruit reaches full size, the green bumps become separated by a creamy-yellow colour between them. The fruit is ready for harvest when it reaches this stage and when it feels slightly spongy in comparison to previously being rock hard. 5

"The sugar apple and its' relatives are not self-pollinating. The flower is naturally pollinated by the nitidulid beetles if they are around. The activities of beetles in the flowers, including feeding, mating, and quiescence, result in prolonged visits from several hours to a few days while the flowers advance from the female to the male phase. Attracting the beetles can be done by leaving rotting fruit under the tree. When the flowers open, the beetle will be attracted by the odor." (Mr. Har Mahdeem)
"Mr. Mahdeem suggested we take the time to learn at what time of day the flowers open so they can be hand pollinated to assure better fruiting. He reminds us that the female flower probably has a hundred of carpels that need to be pollinated. If they are not completely dusted with pollen you will likely have deformed fruit."
Sugar apple trees produce flowers on -1 to 2-year-old wood and newly emerging shoots. 1
The best pollination time for sugar apple is in the morning (5 - 8 AM). For atemoya, the best time for pollination is in the evening (4 - 8 PM). 9

Artificial pollination of sugar apple and atemoya from AgriFoodGateway pdf
Flowering Behavior, Pollination and Fruit Set from the University of Florida
Hand Pollination of the Custard Apple from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Sugar apple seeds have a relatively long life, having kept well for 3 to 4 years. They germinate better a week after removal from the fruit than when perfectly fresh. Germination may take 30 days or more but can be hastened by soaking for 3 days or by scarifying. Side-grafting can be done only from December to May, requires much skill and the rate of success has not exceeded 58.33%. Shield-budding gives 75% success and is the only commercially feasible method. Seedlings may be budded or grafted when one-year old. Inarching is 100% successful. Cuttings, layers, air layers have a low rate of success, and trees grown by these techniques have shallow root systems and cannot endure drought as well as seedlings do. 6

Many areas in Florida have sandy soil. Remove a 3- to 10-ft-diameter (0.9- to 3.1-m) ring of grass sod. Dig a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the sugar apple tree came in. Making a large hole loosens the soil next to the new tree making it easy for the roots to expand into the adjacent soil. It is not necessary to apply fertilizer, topsoil, or compost to the hole. In fact, placing topsoil or compost in the hole first and then planting on top of it is not desirable. If you wish to add topsoil or compost to the native soil, mix it with the excavated soil in no more than a 50-50 ratio.
Backfill the hole with some of the excavated soil. Remove the tree from the container and place it in the hole so that the top of the soil media from the container is level with or slightly above the surrounding soil level. Fill soil in around the tree roots and tamp slightly to remove air pockets. Immediately water the soil around the tree and tree roots. Staking the tree with a wooden or bamboo stake is optional. However, do not use wire or nylon rope to tie the tree to the stake because they may eventually damage the tree trunk as it grows. Use a cotton or natural fiber string that will degrade slowly. 1
Compost may be used sparingly (in small amounts, 1-3 shovels full) as an addition to the native soil when planting landscape trees and added to the topsoil under the tree canopy. 1

Periodic pruning of sugar apple trees can easily maintain trees at or below 8 to 12 ft
(2.4-3.7 m) in height.Young nursery trees should be planted and left to grow during their first season so that they will establish quickly. However, during the early spring of the following year either trees should be cut back to force branching along the main trunk, or selective branches should be headed back and others cut out completely to encourage the formation of evenly spaced branches with wide branch to trunk crotch angles. 1

How to Espalier your tree

During the first 2 to 3 years after planting, growing a strong, vigorous tree is the goal. It is recommended that any fruit that sets during the first year or so be removed so that the tree will grow vigorously. After the third year, the emphasis changes to cultural practices that enhance flowering, fruit set, and fruit development. These include reduced frequency of N-P2O5-K2O applications and close attention to irrigation from flowering to harvest during prolonged dry periods. 1

Sugar apple trees are tolerant of drought conditions, however, fruit set and fruit size may be reduced and defoliation may occur due to drought stress. Mild to severe drought stress may reduce atemoya (a relative of sugar apple) fruit size by 10 to 50%. Therefore, periodic watering of sugar apple trees is recommended from flowering through fruit development to enhance fruit quality and production. 1 

Annona Pests Page

Food Uses
Sugar apple is a prized dessert fruit of the tropics. The pulp of the mature fruits is eaten fresh. Strained fruit pulp (to remove the seeds) provides nectar useful in ice cream and sherbet preparations. The juice also may be combined with milk as a flavorful beverage. 7
It is never cooked.

Medicinal Uses **
In India the crushed leaves are sniffed to overcome hysteria and fainting spells; they are also applied on ulcers and wounds and a leaf decoction is taken in cases of dysentery. Throughout tropical America, a decoction of the leaves alone or with those of other plants is imbibed either as an emmenagogue, febrifuge, tonic, cold remedy, digestive, or to clarify the urine. The leaf decoction is also employed in baths to alleviate rheumatic pain. The green fruit, very astringent, is employed against diarrhea in El Salvador. In India, the crushed ripe fruit, mixed with salt, is applied on tumors. The bark and roots are both highly astringent. The bark decoction is given as a tonic and to halt diarrhea. The root, because of its strong purgative action, is administered as a drastic treatment for dysentery and other ailments. 7

Other Uses
The seeds are toxic and should NOT be eaten. Powdered seeds reportedly are used in India as a fish poison and as an ingredient in a paste to control human head lice. 7

The seeds are acrid and poisonous. Bark, leaves and seeds contain the alkaloid, anonaine. Six other aporphine alkaloids have been isolated from the leaves and stems: corydine, roemerine, norcorydine, norisocarydine, isocorydine and glaucine. Aporphine, norlaureline and dienone may be present also. 7


Sugar Apple Distribution Map
Fig. 15 magnifying glass
Annona squamosa distribution map

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

Further Reading
The Sugar Apple (1982) from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Custard Apples from Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective
Sugar Apple Botanical Art

List of Growers and Vendors


1 Crane, Johathan H., Balerdi, Carlos F. and Maquire, Ian. "Sugar Apple Growing in the Florida Home Landscape." This document is Fact Sheet HS38, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: Apr. 1994. Reviewed Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
2 "Annona squamosa". Web 27 Aug.2014.
3 "Sugar Apple". Web 27 Aug.2014.
4 Gray, Ted. "The Delightful Sugar Apple." Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Mar. 1981. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
5 King, Allan. "The Sugar Apple." Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Nov. 1982. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
6 Morton, J. "Sugar apple, Annona squamosa". Fruits of warm climates. p. 69-72. 1987.  Web. 19 Sept. 2014.
7 "Sugar Apple/Sweetsop, Annona squamosa, Annonaceae." ECHO Plant Information Sheet. ECHO 17391 Durrance Rd, N. Fort Myers FL 33917 USA. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.
8 "Annona squamosa." Web. 16 Jan. 2016.
9 Taitung District Agricultural Improvement Station, Taiwan ROC. "Artificial pollination of sugar apple and atemoya." Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region. Web. 23 JUne 2016.


Fig. 1,6,7,8,9,14 Jackson, Karen. "Sugar apple series". 2013. JPG File
Fig. 2,3 Karim, Muhammad Mahdi. Sugar apple with its cross section. 2010. Web. 31 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 4 Rulkens, Ton. Opening flower (with buds in the background). N.d. Under (CC BY 2.0). Web. 20 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 3 Garg, J.M. Annona squamosa (Custard Apple) flower in Hyderabad. 2008. Web 27 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 5,6 Ghosh, Asit K. Annona squamosa. N.d. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
Fig. 10 Annona squamosa. N.d. Top Tropicals Tropical Plant Catalog. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 11 Pinus. Annona squamosa L. 2012. Under(CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 24 Jan. 2016.
Fig.12 Starr, Forest and Kim. Fruit and leaves at Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui. 2007. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 13 Barger, Shlhmel. Sugar apple. 2010. Under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Web. 24 Jan. 2016.
Fig. 15 Wunderlin, R. P., B. F. Hansen, A. R. Franck, and F. B. Essig. Species Distribution Map: Annona squamosa. N.d. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. [S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), USF Water Institute.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

*   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.  Last update 27 Apr. 2017 LR
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