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Annona squamosa
Sugar-apple with cross section
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Magnoliales
Family: Annonaceae
Genus: Annona
Species: A. squamosa
Binomial name
Annona squamosa
L.

Annona squamosa (also called sugar-apple, or sweetsop) is a species of Annona native to the tropical Americas, India and Pakistan. Its exact native range is unknown due to extensive cultivation, but thought to be in the Caribbean; the species was described from Jamaica.

It is a semi-evergreen shrub or small tree reaching 6–8 meters (20–26 ft) tall. The leaves are alternate, simple, oblong-lanceolate, 5–17 cm (2.0–6.7 in) long and 2–5 centimeters (0.79–2.0 in) broad. The flowers are produced in clusters of 3-4, each flower 1.5–3 cm (0.59–1.2 in) across, with three large petals and three minute ones, yellow-green spotted purple at the base.

The fruit is usually round, slightly pine cone-like, 6–10 cm (2.4–3.9 in) diameter and weighing 100–230 g (3.5–8.1 oz), with a scaly or lumpy skin. There are variations in shape and size. The fruit flesh is sweet, white to light yellow, and resembles and tastes like custard. The edible portion coats the seeds generously; a bit like the gooey portion of a tomato seed. Sugar-apple has a very distinct, sweet-smelling fragrance. The texture of the flesh that coats the seeds is a bit like the center of a very ripe guava (excluding the seeds). It is slightly grainy, a bit slippery, very sweet and very soft. The seeds are scattered through the fruit flesh; the seed coats are blackish-brown, 12–18 mm (0.47–0.71 in) long, and hard and shiny.

There are also new varieties being developed in Taiwan. There is a pineapple sugar-apple, which is similar in sweetness but has a very different taste. Like the name suggests, it tastes like pineapple. The arrangement of seeds is in spaced rows, with the fruit's flesh filling most of the fruit and making grooves for the seeds, instead of the flesh only occurring around the seeds.

Contents

Nomenclature

Different cultures have many names for the species. In English it is most widely known as sugar-apple or sweetsop, also sometimes custard-apple (especially in India) though technically incorrectly, as this name usually refers to Annona reticulata, another closely related species. In Latin America regional names include anón, anón de azucar, anona blanca, fruta do conde, cachiman, saramuyo, and many others. In India it is known as Ata, aarticum, shareefa, sitaphal or seethaphal or seetha pazham (सीता फळ சீதாப்பழம் literally meaning "sita fruit" as the fruit has too many seeds and monkeys will not eat them – monkeys are believed to be friends of Rama, Sita's husband), and in Indonesia, srimatikiya or mostly people call it as "srikaya". The Taiwanese call it Sakya (traditional Chinese: 釋迦pinyin: shìjiā; Taiwanese: sek-khia, sek-kia) because one cultivar resembles the top part of Sakyamuni's (釋迦牟尼) head. Its name in Burmese is aajaa thee. In Indonesia, it is called srikaya. In the Philippines it is called atis. In Thailand it is called noi-na (น้อยหน่า) which is also the common name for a hand-grenade because of its appearance. In Vietnam, it is called mãng cầu ta or na. In Brazil, it is called fruta do conde, pinha or ata. In the Middle East region, it is called "achta".

Cultivation and uses

Michael Boym's drawing of, probably, the sugar-apple in his Flora Sinensis (1655)

Sugar-apple fruit is high in calories and is a good source of iron. It is the most widely cultivated of all the species of Annona, being grown widely throughout the tropics and warmer subtropics such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan; it was introduced to southern Asia before 1590. It is naturalized north to southern Florida in the United States and south to Bahia in Brazil, and is an invasive species in some areas.

Like most species of Annona, it requires a tropical or subtropical climate with summer temperatures from 25 °C (77 °F) to 41 °C (106 °F), and mean winter temperatures above 15 °C (59 °F). It is sensitive to cold and frost, being defoliated below 10 °C and killed by temperatures of a few degrees below freezing. It is only moderately drought-tolerant, requiring rainfall above 700 mm, and not producing fruit well during droughts.

It is quite a prolific bearer and will produce fruit in as little as two to three years. A tree five years old may produce as many as 50 sugar-apples. Poor fruit production has been reported in Florida because there are few natural pollinators (honeybees have a difficult time penetrating the tightly closed female flowers); however hand pollination with a natural fiber brush is effective in increasing yield.

In the Philippines, the fruit is commonly eaten by the Philippine Fruit Bat (Kabag or Kabog) which then spreads the seeds from island to island. In the Philippines there is a company that produces Sugar apple wine.

It is a host plant for larvae of the butterfly Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay).

It is used by some societies in India to prepare a hair tonic. The seeds are also ground and applied to hair to get rid of lice, however, it must be kept away from the eyes as it is highly irritant and can cause blindness.[citation needed]

Gallery

See also

References

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