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Spondias purpurea - L.

Common Name Purple Mombin Red Mombin, Spanish Plum, Ciruela
Family Anacardiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The seed is toxic[348 ].
Habitats Abundant in thickets or open forest, often in second growth, common in fencerows, pastures, and many other situations, ascending from sea level to elevations of about 1,700 metres[331 ].
Range Western S. America north to the Caribbean and through Central America to Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Spondias purpurea Purple Mombin Red Mombin, Spanish Plum, Ciruela
Spondias purpurea Purple Mombin Red Mombin, Spanish Plum, Ciruela


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Purple Mombin, Spondias purpurea, is a deciduous tree commonly found in western part of South America. It has a spreading crown and it reaches a height of up to 25 m upon maturity. Its bole can be 30 - 80 cm in diameter. The leaves are pinnate with 7 to 23 leaflets each leaf. The flowers are small, reddish-purple, and produced in large panicles. The fruits are yellow or purplish-red and are oval drupe. Ripe fruits can be consumed raw or cooked with sugar to make desserts. Unripe fruits, on the other hand, can be pickled or made into a tart green sauce. Young shoots and leaves are often eaten raw but can also be cooked. The seeds are edible as well. Medicinally, the leaves have antibacterial properties. It can be made into juice and used as treatment of swollen glands and trauma. It can also be crushed and used as poultice for headaches. The fruits are laxative and used for constipation. Other plant parts are used for dysentery, diarrhea, and sore throat. Wood ashes are used in soap making. The wood is soft, light in weight, and not durable but can be used for paper pulp production.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Spondias purpurea is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[46 ]. Spicy and subacid, the juicy yellow pulp is said to have a flavour resembling a plum[303 ]. It is eaten raw or cooked with sugar[301 , 303 ]. Usually eaten ripe and raw, though children, and even some adults, eat the sour, green fruits[331 ]. It is also used for making jams, ice cream etc[301 ]. Unripe fruits are pickled or made into a tart green sauce[301 ]. The yellow or purplish-red cylindrical fruits are 25 - 30mm long[303 ]. The young shoots and leaves often are conspicuously coloured with red and purple[303 ]. They have a rather agreeable acid flavour, and often are eaten raw by children or adults[331 ]. They can also be cooked[301 ]. The leaves contain 5.5% protein[303 ]. Edible seeds[303 ].


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 leaves exhibit anti-bacterial properties[303 ]. The leaf juice is taken orally in the treatment of swollen glands and trauma[303 ]. The crushed leaves are applied as a poultice to treat headaches[303 ]. In large amounts the fruit is laxative and is used as a treatment for constipation[303 ] The plant is also used to treat dysentery and diarrhoea, whilst parts of the plant are used in the preparation of a herbal remedy for sore throat[303 ].


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Other Uses

Agroforestry Uses: They often are planted for living fence posts, being one of the best of all trees for the purpose in the tierra caliente[331 ]. Even quite large limbs when cut and set in the ground take root quickly, and often are set thickly to form immediate barriers[331 , 418 ]. Other Uses In some regions the ashes of the wood are used in soap-making[331 , 447 ]. Some cosmetic and hygienic products eg soap are manufactured from parts of this tree[303 ]. The seeds have a thick gum coating commonly used in chilli stews. This gum has good solubility in water and on hydrolysis yields polysaccharides. Aspartic acid and valine are its major amino acid constituents[303 ]. The whitish wood is soft, light in weight and brittle[447 ]. It is said to have been used in Brazil for paper pulp[331 ]. The easily cut and brittle branches are potential fuel wood[303 ].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

The plant grows best in the subhumid and frost-free tropics at an elevation up to 2,000 metres[200 , 303 , 418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 - 28°c, but can tolerate 13 - 35°c[418 ]. The plant is not frost tolerant. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 800 - 1,100mm, but tolerates 600 - 1,800mm[418 ]. For good fruit set it requires growing conditions with a marked dry season of up to 6 months[303 ]. Requires a sunny position[418 ]. Plants are not too fussy over soil, so long as it is well-drained. It does not need very fertile conditions, however very poor soil, or shallow land, is unsuitable[200 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5.5 - 8[418 ]. Seedling plants can start producing fruit when about 4 - 5 years old, whilst cuttings can commence when 2 - 3 years old[335 ]. Fruits can be obtained in Guatemala at almost any season of the year[331 ]. Several named forms have been developed in Guatemala[331 ]. Flowering Time: Late Winter/Early Spring Mid Spring Late Spring/Early Summer. Bloom Color: White/Near White Cream/Tan.


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The PFAF Bookshop

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Seed - Fairly easy to grow from quite large cuttings[200 , 307 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ateyaxocotl, Caja, Ciriguela, Ciruela, Ciruelo, Hog-plum, Jamaican plum, Jocote, Red mombin, Spanish-plum, Walak, jocote, purple mombin, red mombin, siriguela, sirínguela.

Found In

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

Mexico; Guatemala; Belize; El Salvador; Nicaragua; Costa Rica; Panama; Colombia; Bolivia, Plurinational State of; Peru; Guyana; French Guiana, Africa, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Asia, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Central America*, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guiana, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Lesser Antilles, Martinique, Mexico*, Nicaragua, North America, Pacific, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, South America, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, USA, Venezuela, 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.

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Spondias dulcisGolden Apple, Ambarella,Tree15.0 9-12 FLMHSNDM420
Spondias mombinYellow Mombin, Hog Plum, Caja Fruit, TaperebáTree20.0 10-12 FMHNDM422
Spondias tuberosaImbu, Umbú, Brazil PlumTree6.0 10-12 SLMHNDM402

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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