|Star Apple, Caimito - Chrysophyllum cainito
Relatives of Caimito: mamey sapote, green sapote, abiu, and canistel.
a purple peel type, and 'Blanco Star', a green peel type.
This beautiful shade tree has glossy dark green leaves with a silky bronze color underneath. Caimito is a favorite in the Caribbean and Central America as well as Southeast Asia. The fruit has a mild grape-like flavor, and is best eaten fresh.
Trees produce a delicious fruit, and the fruits are born during the early to late spring. The fruit size can be from 2-1/2 to 3 inches in diameter and there are two varieties, one with purple skin and one with green skin. Both have very sweet whitish flesh which is very good and is usually eaten as a fresh fruit. The purple fruit has a denser skin and texture while the greenish brown fruit has a thin skin and a more liquid pulp. The purple-skinned fruit is often green around the calyx, with a star pattern in the pulp. The skin is rich in latex, and both it and the rind are not edible. The flattened seeds are light brown and hard. It bears fruit year around after it reaches about seven years of age. The fruits do not normally drop and, therefore, must be picked and allowed to ripen off the tree.
Star 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. 3
Fruit do not fall when ripe and therefore must be harvested by hand when fully mature. Fruit should be clipped from the stem because pulling the fruit off by hand may damage the peel next to the fruit stem (peduncle), which may lead to fruit rot. Cutting the fruit transversely and then gently separating the two halves is an easy way to open the fruit. The pulp then may be spooned out (Fig. 6), leaving the inedible rubbery seed-cells, seeds, and core. 1
The 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. 3
Some seedlings and cultivars (e.g., 'Haitian Star' and 'Blanco Star') do not need cross pollination to set fruit. However, some seedlings require cross pollination in order to set fruit. 1
Star 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. 3
Grafting caimito onto
satin leaf (C.
oliviforme) is reported to produce slow-growing, dwarf
Young caimito trees should be trained to form 3 to 5 main scaffold limbs during the first 2 to 3 years after planting. Mature trees should be maintained at 8 to 12 ft (2.4-3.7 m) by annual selective removal of poorly placed and upright limbs. 1
A closely related species, the Satin-leaf Fruit (Chrysophyllum oliviforme), is grown for its fruit and as an ornamental. The small fruit is oblong in outline and has an objectionable rubbery skin. The purplish pulp, however, has a good flavor and can be used to make an excellent jelly.
The Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott immortalizes the fruit as a symbol of the Caribbean itself in his 1979 collection, The Star-Apple Kingdom. 2
Diseases and Pests
The foliage, stems, and limbs may be attacked by red algae (Cephaleuros virescens), causing stem and limb dieback. Leaves may also be attacked by various fungi (Phomopsis sp. and Phyllosticta sp.). Fruit may also be attacked, causing it to dry-rot (mummify) and be held on the tree. Please contact your local county cooperative extension agent for current control recommendations. 1
1 Crane, Jonathan H. and Balerdi, Carlos F. "Caimito (Star Apple) Growing in the Florida Home Landscape." edis.ifas.ufl.edu.This document is HS1069, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date January 2006. Revised January 2009. Reviewed July 2013. Web. 23 Dec. 2014.
2 "Chrysophyllum cainito." wikipedia.org. N.d. Web. 24 Dec. 2014.
3 Morton, J. "Star Apple." hort.purdue.edu. Fruits of warm climates, p. 408-410.. 1987. Web. 23 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 1,11,13,17,21,22 Kwan. Chrysophyllum cainito. 2008. natureloveyou.sg. Web. 24 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 2,3,4,5,12,14,15,16,24,25 Chrysophyllum cainito. 2004. biogeodb.stri.si.edu. Environmental Sciences Program, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Web. 25 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 6,7,8,9,18 Chrysophyllum cainito, Achras caimito. N.d. toptropicals.com. Top Tropicals Tropical Plant Catalog. Web. 24 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 10 Starr, Forest and Kim. Chrysophyllum cainito (Star apple) Fruit. 2011. starrenvironment.com. Olinda, Maui Web. 24 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 19 Robitaille, Liette. "Star Apple Series". 2014. growables.org. File JPG
Fig. 20 Starr, Forest and Kim. Chrysophyllum cainito (Star apple) Habit. 2011. starrenvironment.com. Garden of Eden Keanae, Maui. Web. 24 Dec. 2014.
Fig. 23 Hurst, Steve. Chrysophyllum cainito L. star apple. 2014. plants.usda.gov. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Web. 24 Dec. 2014.
Published 23 Dec. 2014 LR. Updated 13 June 2015 LR