From the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Palm Beach County
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
The genus Garcinia has a number of popular fruit trees including the mangosteen, which is considered the finest fruit in the word. There are a lot of Garcinias that are grown here in Florida, with fruit qualities ranging from very acid to some that are quite sweet.
One favorite is the imbe, Garcinia livingstonei. This slow-growing evergreen shrub from East Africa will reach a height of about 15 feet and attain about the same width. It has tough leathery four-to-six-inch leaves which are white-veined and quite attractive.
The tree also has a unique growth habit, with most branches coming out at right angles to the main stem, giving the tree an unusual form. Trees grow slowly and this makes them ideal for pot culture; in fact, many people grow imbe as a container tropical fruit for small landscapes.
Imbes have separate sexes, so this means you have to have both a male and a female tree for good fruit production. Isolated female trees sometimes produce a few fruit, but they are quite small and for optimum production it's always best to have a male tree or a male branch grafted onto the female tree.
Trees flower in the late spring and the fruit ripen quickly, often maturing in mid-to-late-June. Fruits are about two inches across, bright orange in color with a thin skin and usually two large seeds. A layer of orange pulp surrounds the seeds and tastes somewhat like apricots.
Besides fresh eating the pulp makes an excellent jelly or jam and can be used for fruit leathers, milkshakes and ice cream.
Trees are easily propagated by seed, but because of the slow growth often are less than a foot high even after one year's growth. It usually takes five to six years to reach fruiting age. There are some varieties that have smaller seeds and more edible pulp, but no named varieties or selections are available at local nurseries. Superior varieties can be grafted onto seedling rootstocks and this is the method most people use to get earlier fruiting.
Trees grow best on acid soil, and on alkaline soils may develop nutritional deficiencies, particularly in zinc. Trees should be fertilized every three to four months with a complete fruit tree fertilizer. If you have young trees or container plants, these can be fertilized every other month to help speed their slow growth.
Imbes are said to have good salt tolerance and can be used fairly close to salt water; their tough leaves are also quite wind resistant. Established trees are considered drought-tolerant, but for optimum fruit production some irrigation may be necessary during the spring dry season. Trees are cold hardy and mature trees can take down to about 25°F without serious damage.
For best growth and fruit production, keep trees where they get plenty of sunlight, and even though they will tolerate light shade, heavy shade will reduce fruit bearing.
There are few pests of diseases of imbe, however, during the period of fruit ripening fruit flies may become a problem in some years.
Joyner, Gene. "The Imbe." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. N.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.
Published 2 Feb. 2015 LR