From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
This member of the Annonaceae was
little known and the subject of much confusion until 1911, when it was
investigated and fully described by W.E. Safford, of the United States
Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry, and given the
botanical name of Annona diversifolia
Safford. In Mexico, it has been called llama, izlama, illamatzopotl
(translated as zapote de las viejas, or "old woman's sapote"), hilama,
and papuasa. In Guatemala, it is called anona blanca or papauce; in El
Salvador, anona blanca.
Fig. 24: The ilama (Annona daversifolia), as grown in southern Florida, has a thick rind and dryish flesh.
tree may be spreading or erect, to 25 ft (7.5 m), often branching from
the ground. It has aromatic, pale brownish-gray, furrowed bark and
glossy, thin, elliptic to obovate or oblanceolate leaves, 2 to 6 in
(5-15 cm) long. There are 1 or 2 leaflike, nearly circular, glabrous
bracts, 1 to 1 3/8 in (2.5 3.5 cm) long, clasping the base of the
flowering branchlets. The new foliage is reddish or coppery. Solitary,
long-stalked, maroon flowers, which open to the base, have small rusty
hairy sepals, narrow, blunt, minutely hairy outer petals, and
stamen-like, pollenbearing inner petals. The fruit is conical,
heart-shaped, or ovoid globose, about 6 in (15 cm) long; may weigh as
much as 2 Ibs (0.9 kg). Generally, the fruit is studded with more or
less pronounced, triangular protuberances, though fruits on the same
tree may vary from rough to fairly smooth. The rind, pale-green to
deep-pink or purplish, is coated with a dense, velvety gray-white
bloom. It is about 1/4 in (6 mm) thick, leathery, fairly soft and
granular. In green types, the flesh is white and sweet; in the pink
types, it is pink-tinged near the rind and around the seeds, all-pink
or even deep-rose, and tart in flavor. It is somewhat fibrous but
smooth and custardy near the rind; varies from dryish to fairly juicy,
and contains 25 to 80 hard, smooth, brown, cylindrical seeds, 3/4 in (2
cm) long, 3/8 in (1 cm) wide, each enclosed in a close-fitting membrane
easily slipped off when split.
Origin and Distribution
ilama is native and grows wild in foothills from the southwest coast of
Mexico to the Pacific coast of Guatemala and El Salvador. The earliest
known record of the fruit was made by Francisco Hernandez who was sent
by King Philip II of Spain in 1570 to take note of the useful products
of Mexico. For many years, it was confused with either the soursop or
the custard apple.
The United States Department of Agriculture
introduced seeds from El Salvador in 1914 (P.I. No. 35567); from
Guatemala in 1917 (P.I. No. 45548); and from Mexico in 1919, 1922 and
1923 (P.I. Nos. 46781, 55709, and 58030). One of the trees planted at
the Plant Introduction Garden, Miami, Florida, bore its first fruits in
1923. Several thousand seedlings had been sent to Puerto Rico, St.
Croix, various part of tropical America and Asia (including Ceylon),
and the Philippines. Apparently few survived. Only in its homeland is
the ilama commonly grown in dooryards, occasionally in orchards of 100
trees or more. Dr. Victor Patino took seeds from Mexico to Colombia for
planting in the Cauca Valley in 1957. In spite of early enthusiasm for
this species, it is seldom mentioned in horticultural literature. In
1942, there were no more than 50 trees in southern Florida, only 3 of
bearing age. In 1965, Dr. John Popenoe, Director of Fairchild Tropical
Garden, brought seeds from Guatemala and raised a number of seedlings
for distribution, but the tree is still quite rare in Florida. It is
too tender even for southern California.
named cultivar, 'Imery', introduced into Florida from El Salvador and
grown at the Agricultural Research and Education Center, Homestead, is
large and pinkfleshed but not as flavorful as some of the white-fleshed
acquisitions from Guatemala.
The ilama is strictly tropical; grows naturally not higher than 2,000 ft (610 m) in Mexico; is cultivated up to 5,000 ft
m) in El Salvador; up to 5,900 ft (1,800 m) in Guatemala. It seems to
do best where there is a long dry season followed by plentiful
rainfall. In areas where rainfall is scant, the tree is irrigated.
Wilson Popenoe observed that the tree was not particular as to soil but
should prosper in rich, loose loam. In Florida, it performs better on
deep sand than on oolitic limestone.
seeds, taken from ripe fruits, remain dormant for several weeks or even
months and the germination rate thereafter is low. Applications of
gibberellic acid at 350 ppm greatly increases germination. Higher
concentrations cause malformations in the seedlings. Whip-or
cleft-grafting onto custard apple (A. reticulata) rootstocks has been successful. Seedlings begin to bear when 3 to 5 years old.
harvesting season begins in late June in Mexico and lasts only a few
weeks. It extends from late July to September in Guatemala; from July
to December in Florida. Traditionally, the fruits are not picked until
they have begun to crack open, but they can be picked a little earlier
and held up to 3 days to soften. They will not ripen if harvested too
yield is typically low. In Mexico, during the normal fruiting period,
some trees will have no fruits, others only 3 to 10; exceptional trees
may bear as many as 85 to 100 fruits in a season.
The Ilama is not as susceptible to the chalcid fly as are its more popular relatives in Florida.
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
|Niacin||2.177 mg |
|Ascorbic Acid||13.6 mg|
*According to analyses made in El Salvador.
early plant explorers of the United States Department of Agriculture
and their contacts in Mexico and Central America described the ilama as
resembling the cherimoya or atemoya in flavor and expected it to be
well received in this country and abroad. However, as grown in Florida,
it is not as appealing as the sugar apple. There is a slightly
unpleasant flavor close to the rind. The flesh is always consumed raw,
either in the half shell or, better still, shallowly scooped out,
chilled, and served with a little cream and sugar to intensify the
flavor, or with a dash of lime or lemon juice.
Last updated: 12/15/114 by ch