From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
Chrysophyllum cainito L.
Achras caimito Ruiz & Pavon
Pests and Diseases
One of the relatively minor fruits of the family Sapotaceae, the star apple or goldenleaf tree, Chrysophyllum cainito L. (syn. Achras caimito
Ruiz & Pavon), has acquired a moderate assortment of regional
names. In Spanish, it is usually caimito or estrella; in Portuguese,
cainito or ajara; in French, generally, caimite or caimitier; in Haiti,
pied caimite or caimitier a feuilles d'or; in the French West Indies,
pomme surette, or buis; in the Virgin Islands, cainit; in Trinidad and
Tobago, it is caimite or kaimit; in Barbados, star-plum; in Colombia,
it may be caimo, caimo morado (purple variety) or caimito maduraverde
(green variety); in Bolivia, caimitero, or murucuja; in Surinam,
sterappel, apra or goudblad boom; in French Guiana, macoucou; in
Belize, damsel; in El Salvador, guayabillo; in Argentina, aguay or
olivoa. The Chinese in Singapore call it "chicle durian".
Plate LVIII: STAR APPLE, Chrysophyllum cainito
star apple tree is erect, 25 to 100 ft (8-30 m) tall, with a short
trunk to 3 ft (1 m) thick, and a dense, broad crown, brown-hairy
branchlets, and white, gummy latex. The alternate, nearly evergreen,
leaves are elliptic or oblong-elliptic, 2 to 6 in (5-15 cm) long,
slightly leathery, rich green and glossy on the upper surface, coated
with silky, golden-brown pubescence beneath when mature, though silvery
when young. Small, inconspicuous flowers, clustered in the leaf axils,
are greenish-yellow, yellow, or purplish-white with tubular, 5-lobed
corolla and 5 or 6 sepals. The fruit, round, oblate, ellipsoid or
somewhat pear-shaped, 2 to 4 in (5-10 cm) in diameter, may be
red-purple, dark-purple, or pale-green. It feels in the hand like a
rubber ball. The glossy, smooth, thin, leathery skin adheres tightly to
the inner rind which, in purple fruits, is dark-purple and 1/4 to 1/2
in (6-12.5 mm) thick; in green fruits, white and 1/8 to 3/16 in.(3-5
mm) thick. Both have soft, white, milky, sweet pulp surrounding the 6
to 11 gelatinous, somewhat rubbery, seed cells in the center which,
when cut through transversely, are seen to radiate from the central
core like an asterisk or many-pointed star, giving the fruit its common
English name. The fruit may have up to 10 flattened, nearly oval,
pointed, hard seeds, 3/4 in (2 cm.) long, nearly 1/2 in (1.25 cm) wide,
and up to 1/4 in (6 mm) thick, but usually several of the cells are not
occupied and the best fruits have as few as 3 seeds. They appear black
at first, with a light area on the ventral side, but they dry to a
Origin and Distribution
is commonly stated that the star apple is indigenous to Central America
but the eminent botanists Paul Standley and Louis Williams have
declared that it is not native to that area, no Nahuatl name has been
found, and the tree may properly belong to the West Indies. However, it
is more or less naturalized at low and medium altitudes from southern
Mexico to Panama, is especially abundant on the Pacific side of
Guatemala, and frequently cultivated as far south as northern Argentina
and Peru. It was recorded by Ciezo de Leon as growing in Peru during
his travels between 1532 and 1550. It is common throughout most of the
Caribbean Islands and in Bermuda. In Haiti, the star apple was the
favorite fruit of King Christophe and he held court under the shade of
a very large specimen at Milot. The United States Department of
Agriculture received seeds from Jamaica in 1904 (S.P.I. #17093). The
star apple is grown occasionally in southern Florida and in Hawaii
where it was introduced before 1901. There are some trees in Samoa and
in Malaya though they do not bear regularly. The tree is grown in
southern Vietnam and in Kampuchea for its fruits but more for its
ornamental value in West Tropical Africa, Zanzibar, and the warmer
parts of India. It was introduced into Ceylon in 1802, reached the
Philippines much later but has become very common there as a roadside
tree and the fruit is appreciated.
from the two distinct color types, there is little evidence of such
pronounced variation that growers would be stimulated to make vigorous
efforts to select and propagate superior clones. William Whitman of
Miami observed a tree yielding heavy crops of well-formed, high quality
fruits in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from late January to the end of June.
He brought budwood to Florida in 1953. Grafted progeny and trees grown
from air-layers have borne well here even prior to reaching 10 ft (3 m)
in height. This introduction, named the "Haitian Star Apple", is
propagated commercially for dooryard culture. Seeds of the
Port-au-Prince tree have produced seedlings that have performed poorly
star apple tree is a tropical or near-tropical species ranging only up
to 1,400 ft (425 m) elevation in Jamaica. It does well only in the
warmest locations of southern Florida and on the Florida Keys. Mature
trees are seriously injured by temperatures below 28º F
(-2.22º C) and recover slowly. Young trees may be killed by even
short exposure to 31º F
tree is not particular as to soil, growing well in deep, rich earth,
clayey loam, sand, or limestone, but it needs perfect drainage.
apple trees are most widely grown from seeds which retain viability for
several months and germinate readily. The seedlings bear in 5 to 10
years. Vegetative propagation hastens production and should be more
commonly practiced. Cuttings of mature wood root well. Air-layers can
be produced in 4 to 7 months and bear early. Budded or grafted trees
have been known to fruit one year after being set in the ground. In
India, the star apple is sometimes inarched on star apple seedlings.
Grafting on the related satinleaf tree (C. oliviforme L.) has had the effect of slowing and stunting the growth.
the first 6 months, the young trees should be watered weekly. Later
irrigation may be infrequent except during the flowering season when
watering will increase fruit-set. Most star apple trees in tropical
America and the West Indies are never fertilized but a complete,
well-balanced fertilizer will greatly improve performance in limestone
and other infertile soils.
apples are generally in season from late winter or early spring to
early summer. They do not fall when ripe but must be hand-picked by
clipping the stem. Care must be taken to make sure that they are fully
mature. Otherwise the fruits will be gummy, astringent and inedible.
When fully ripe, the skin is dull, a trifle wrinkled, and the fruit is
slightly soft to the touch.
In India, a mature star apple tree may bear 150 lbs (60 kg) of fruits in the short fruiting season of February and March.
Ripe fruits remain in good condition for 3 weeks at 37.4º to 42.8º F (3º-6º C) and 90% relative humidity.
Pests and Diseases
Larvae of small insects are sometimes found in the ripe fruits.
main disease problem in the Philippines is stem-end decay caused by
species of Pestalotia and Diplodia. In Florida, some fruits may mummify
before they are full-grown.
The foliage is subject to leaf spots
from attack by Phomopsis sp., Phyllosticta sp., and Cephaleuros
virescens, the latter known as algal leaf spot or green scurf.
Birds and squirrels attack the fruits if they are left to fully ripen on the tree.
apples must not be bitten into. The skin and rind (constituting
approximately 33% of the total) are inedible. When opening a star
apple, one should not allow any of the bitter latex of the skin to
contact the edible flesh. The ripe fruit, preferably chilled, may be
merely cut in half and the flesh spooned out, leaving the seed cells
and core. A combination of the chopped flesh with that of mango,
citrus, pineapple, other fruits and coconut water is frozen and served
as Jamaica Fruit Salad Ice. An attractive way to serve the fruit is to
cut around the middle completely through the rind and then, holding the
fruit stem-end down, twisting the top gently back and forth. As this is
done, the flesh will be felt to free itself from the downward half of
the rind, and the latter will pull away, taking with it the greater
part of the core.
In Jamaica, the flesh is often eaten with sour
orange juice, a combination called "matrimony"; or it is mixed with
orange juice, a little sugar, grated nutmeg and a spoonful of sherry
and eaten as dessert called "strawberries and-cream". Bolivians parboil
the edible portion, and also prepare it as a decoction. An emulsion of
the slightly bitter seed kernels is used to make imitation milk-of
almonds, also nougats and other confections.
|Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
*Analyses made in Cuba and Central America.
seeds contain 1.2% of the bitter, cyanogenic glycoside, lucumin;
0.0037% pouterin; 6.6% of a fixed oil; 0.19% saponin; 2.4% dextrose and
3.75% ash. The leaves possess an alkaloid, also resin, resinic acid,
and a bitter substance.
The tree is seldom felled for timber unless there is a particular need
for it. The heartwood is pinkish or red-brown, violet, or dark-purple;
fine-grained, compact, heavy, hard, strong, tough but not difficult to
work; durable indoors but not outside in humid conditions. It has been
utilized for heavy construction and for deluxe furniture, cabinetwork
The latex obtained by making incisions in the bark coagulates readily
and has been utilized as an adulterant of gutta percha. It was formerly
proposed as a substitute for wax on the shelves of wardrobes and
The ripe fruit, because of its mucilaginous character, is eaten to
sooth inflammation in laryngitis and pneumonia. It is given as a
treatment for diabetes mellitus, and as a decoction is gargled to
relieve angina. In Venezuela, the slightly unripe fruits are eaten to
overcome intestinal disturbances. In excess, they cause constipation. A
decoction of the rind, or of the leaves, is taken as a pectoral. A
decoction of the tannin-rich, astringent bark is drunk as a tonic and
stimulant, and is taken to halt diarrhea, dysentery and hemorrhages,
and as a treatment for gonorrhea and "catarrh of the bladder". The
bitter, pulverized seed is taken as a tonic, diuretic and febrifuge.
Cuban residents in Miami are known to seek the leaves in order to
administer the decoction as a cancer remedy. Many high-tannin plant
materials are believed by Latin Americans to be carcinostatic. In
Brazil, the latex of the tree is applied on abscesses and, when dried
and powdered, is given as a potent vermifuge. Else where, it is taken
as a diuretic, febrifuge and remedy for dysentery.
Last updated: 12/23/114 by ch