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Chrysophyllum cainito - L.

Common Name Star Apple, Caimito
Family Sapotaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The seeds contain a cyanogenic glucoside.
Habitats Humid woodlands at low to medium elevations[ 307 ].
Range Central America - Belize; Caribbean - Cayman Islands, Jamaica.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Chrysophyllum cainito Star Apple, Caimito


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Chrysophyllum cainito Star Apple, Caimito
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Summary

Star Apple (Chrysophyllum cainito) is a tropical, slow-growing evergreen tree that is usually about 25 m tall and 4-8 m wide. The stem is erect, the branches hang down, and the leaves are small, dark green in colour but red/yellow underneath, hairy, and shiny. Small flowers occur in clusters. The fruits are oval shaped, purple when ripe, and smooth skinned. The non-climacteric fruit is sweet when ripe and is eaten raw or processed into preserves. Further, ripe fruit sooths inflammation in laryngitis and pneumonia and used as treatment for diabetes, angina, haemorrhage and fever. The leaves are used in the treatment of wounds and hypoglycaemia. The bark, moreover, is used in the treatment for diarrhoea, dysentery, haemorrhages, gonorrhoea, catarrh of the bladder. Branches of star apple tree are used as a medium in growing orchids while the wood pulp is made into high quality paper. The bark yields tannin. The wood is used for general indoor construction and used for fuel.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Chrysophyllum cainito is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Cainito pomiferum Tussac Chrysophyllum bicolor Poir. Chrysophyllum bonplandii Klotzsch. ex Miq. Chry

Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Seed
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or made into preserves[ 301 ]. A sweet flavour[ 301 ]. The pleasantly acidic flesh is high in carbohydrate and is eaten fresh[ 200 ]. The fruit is about 10cm in diameter[ 296 ]. The fruit is not good unless allowed to remain on the tree until fully ripe; if picked when immature it is astringent and contains a sticky, white latex[ 303 ]. The skin needs to be removed since biting into it leaves a horrible stickiness in the mouth[ 296 ]. When opening a star apple fruit, one should not allow any of the bitter latex of the skin to contact the edible fresh[ 306 ]. The ripe fruit, preferably chilled, is cut in half and the flesh spooned out, leaving the seed cells and core. A better way of serving 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[ 306 ]. An emulsion of the slightly bitter seed kernels is used to make imitation milk-of-almonds or nougat and other confections[ 301 ].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


The ripe fruit is eaten to sooth inflammation in laryngitis and pneumonia[ 306 ]. It is given as a treatment for diabetes mellitus, and as a decoction is gargled to relieve angina[ 306 ]. The fruit is used in treating haemorrhage or is cooked and used for fever[ 303 ]. A decoction of the rind, or of the leaves, is taken as a pectoral[ 306 ]. The undersides of the leaves are grated and applied as a poultice to wounds[ 303 ]. A decoction of the leaves is taken orally to treat hypoglycaemia[ 303 ]. A decoction of the tannin-rich, astringent bark is drunk as a tonic and stimulant, and is taken to halt diarrhoea, dysentery and haemorrhages, and as a treatment for gonorrhoea and catarrh of the bladder[ 306 , 348 ]. The bitter, pulverized seed is taken as a tonic, diuretic and febrifuge[ 306 ]. The latex of the tree is applied on abscesses and, when dried and powdered, it is given as a potent vermifuge. It is also taken as a diuretic, febrifuge and remedy for dysentery[ 306 ].

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Other Uses

Other uses rating: Low (2/5). Large shade tree, Street tree, Screening, Specimen, Backyard tree, Large planter, Conservatory. Grown as an ornamental for the attractive golden underside to the leaves. Agroforestry Uses: The branches are used as an orchid-growing medium[ 320 ]. Other Uses: A good quality paper can be obtained from the wood pulp[ 303 ]. Tannins are extracted from the bark[ 303 ]. The sapwood and heartwood are reddish-brown to dark brown, strong, hard but not durable, with fine to medium texture, fairly straight grain; specific gravity of 0.70[ 303 ]. The wood is used for general indoor construction, such as planking, light framing, flooring, interior trim, lining, shelving, cladding, panelling and partitioning. It is also suitable for mouldings, light tool handles, inlaying, carving, joinery, furniture and cabinet making[ 303 ]. Good-quality veneer and plywood can be obtained from it[ 303 ]. The wood is sometimes used for fuel[ 404 ].

Special Uses

Cultivation details

Star apple grows successfully in a range of tropical or near tropical areas. Throughout Southeast Asia it thrives in the lowlands, up to 400 metres elevation, and in areas with a distinct dry season[ 306 ]. If the dry period is most pronounced, undue loss of leaves and less juicy or even shrivelled fruit are evident, which indicates that the drought is too severe and irrigation is needed[ 306 ]. The temperature range for growth is reported to be 12 - 35c with the optimum between 22 - 38c[ 303 ]. Mature trees are seriously injured by temperatures below -2c and recover slowly. Young trees may be killed by even short exposure to -0.5c[ 303 ]. The annual rainfall range for growth is reported to be 800 - 2,200mm with the optimum between 1,000 - 1,400mm[ 303]. Requires a moist, well-drained soil[ 296 ]. Prefers a deep, rich loam[ 200 ]. Fertile, well drained and slightly acid soils are ideal for good growth, though the plant can succeed on almost all types of soil[ 306 ]. Prefers a sunny position[ 307 ]. Established plants are tolerant of drought[ 307 ]. Trees take about 5 - 10 years to produce fruit from seed[ 296 , 377 ]. Grafted plants can start to fruit in 2 - 4 years[ 377 ]. Some trees yield heavy crops of fruit, others bear little[ 303 ]. Yields of 70 kg or fruit per tree per year have been recorded. The fruit do not drop and must be picked. They can be stored for 3 weeks at cool temperatures. Young trees are sensitive to water stress in their first year, and growth during that time is slow. Once the tree is established, growth rate and development become more rapid. Deep mulching with straw or lawn clippings, application of fertilizer and frequent dry-season watering all seem necessary for success with this species[ 303 ]. The trees do not drop their fruit, making it necessary to climb the tree in order to harvest the crop[ 307 ]. There are many named varieties[ 301 ]. Star apple flowers are hermaphrodite, and the plants are usually self-fertile[ 335 ].

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Propagation

Seed - sow in a light, sandy loam[ 303 ]. Germination rate is 70%, the seed taking up to six weeks to germinate[ 296 , 303 ]. The seed retains its viability for several months[ 306 ]. The seedlings bear fruits in 5-10 years[ 306 ]. Greenwood cuttings. The cuttings taken from mature stems root well[ 306 ], when placed over strong moist heat[ 303 ]. Air layering. Takes 4 - 7 months[ 306 ]. Grafting. Grafted trees have been known to commence bearing in their first year[ 306 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Star Apple (Chrysophyllum cainito). Other common names are cainito, caimito, golden leaf tree, abiaba, pomme de lait, estrella, milk fruit and aguay. Other Names: Abiaba, Aguay, Ajara, Apra, Buis, Caimite, Caimitero, Caimitier, Caimito-roxo, Caimo, Caini, Cainit, Cainito, Caymito, Chicle durian, Damsel, Epal feleppin, Estrella, Golden leaf tree, Guayabillo, 'istal 'apel, Kaimit, Macoucou, Milky fruit, Murucuja, Olivoa, Pied caimite, Pomme surette, Pomme de last, Star'apra, Star apple, Sterappel, Star plum, Tuk dah koo, Vu sua. In Malayalam it is called "Swarnapathry" meaning 'golden leaves'. In Cambodia, this fruit is called " plae teuk dos ko" which means milk fruit. In Sierra Leone the fruit is referred to as "Bobi wata" or breast milk fruit. In Nigeria, it is called agbalumo or odara.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Argentina, Asia, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Caribbean, Cayman Islands, Central Africa, Central America, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, C™te d'Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Africa, El Salvador, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guiana, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nauru, Nicaragua, North America, Pacific, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Samoa, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South America, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands, West Africa, West Indies.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive. Some evidence in Hawaii, USA.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

 

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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