By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
The cainito fruit tree (Chrysophyllum cainito), also known as star apple, is not really an apple tree at all. Possibly originating from Central America, it grows well throughout the tropical West Indies, the Pacific and Southeast Asia, and even thrives in Hawaii and parts of Florida. Read on to learn more about this interesting fruit tree.
What is a Star Apple?
If you look at pictures, you’ll find that this fruit is similar to a plum. When sliced in half, however, an unusual star pattern is visible in the center of the fruit, hence the name. This pattern makes the fruit popular for high-end desserts. The fruit is tasty, containing a milky juice used in smoothies and other culinary endeavors. Ripened fruit is yellow, golden, or purple on the outside, depending on cultivar. The fruit is round with juicy white or pink flesh, tasting sweet and unique. Its outer peel, though, is not edible.
Green on one side, leaves are gold on the other, giving the additional name of golden leaf tree. Cainito tree cultivation in the U.S. is normally not a commercial endeavor, but is left to the homeowner and those with small orchards, according to star apple info. Some have escaped cultivation and grow along roadsides in warmer areas.
Cainito Tree Cultivation and Care
According to star apple info, trees will grow anywhere in the U.S. if indoor protection can be provided at 40 degrees F. (4 C.) and below. Temperatures below freezing damage the tree. Not a fan of salty air and sea spray, this is not the best fruit tree to grow near the ocean.
While the tree is attractive, it requires substantial pruning to grow as a single liter tree. Problems such as fruit not dropping when ripe are reported. Those growing in the Philippine Islands are known to suffer from stem-end decay. Appropriate cainito star apple care is necessary to keep trees healthy and producing quality fruit.
Trees grow quickly, whether in ground or in a large container. Healthy trees may produce edible fruit as quickly as the third year. Trees can grow from seed, taking longer to develop and up to ten years to produce. Propagation by air layering or grafting is often most successful. These trees need lots of room in the sunny landscape. If you’ll grow one in the ground, allow 10 feet (3 m.) or more without other trees.
Provide the same type of location needed for all healthy fruit trees– loamy, amended soil on raised ground. Add a trench around the outside of the planting spot to hold water occasionally while establishing the root system. Winter fungicide sprays are important for the productive harvest. It you’re attempting to grow organic fruit, take a look at using horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps instead.
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- Origin and Distribution
- Keeping Quality
- Pests and Diseases
- Food Uses
- Other Uses
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|
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. 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 light-brown.
It 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.
Apart 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 in Florida.
The 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 (-0.56º C).
The tree is not particular as to soil, growing well in deep, rich earth, clayey loam, sand, or limestone, but it needs perfect drainage.
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. Grafting on the related satinleaf tree (C. oliviforme L.) has had the effect of slowing and stunting the growth.
During 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.
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.
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.
Larvae of small insects are sometimes found in the ripe fruits.
The, 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.
Star 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*|
|Ascorbic Acid||3.0-15.2 mg|
*Analyses made in Cuba and Central America.
The 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.
Wood: 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 and balustrades.
Latex: 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 closets.
Medicinal Uses: 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.
Star Apple (a.k.a, Caimito) are highly ornamental trees boasting attractive green foliage and bright red colored fruits that are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. They are highly adaptable and can be planted in the landscape where they can be trained as a small tree, screen or shrub. They also make an excellent container specimen do to their smaller size. This is a tropical specimen so please make sure to protect them from frost or temperatures at or below 30F.
|Star Apple Details|
|Tree Size/Habit||Round, oval canopy to 25 feet or larger|
|Fruit Shape/Size||Round to 4 inches in diameter|
|Skin Color When Ripe||Purple|
|Fruit Use||Fresh Eating, preserves|
|Light Needs||Full Sun|
|Water Needs||Regular Water|
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The fruit has numerous names. The common names cainito and caimito likely come from the Mayan words cab (juice), im (breast), and vitis (sap),  via Spanish. It is also called variously tar apple, star apple, purple star apple, golden leaf tree, abiaba, pomme de lait, estrella, milk fruit and aguay. It is also known by the synonym Achras cainito. In Vietnam, it is called Vú Sữa (lit. : milky breast). In Sierra Leone the fruit is referred to as Bobi Wata or Breast Milk Fruit. [ citation needed ] In Malayalam it is called Swarnapathry meaning [the tree with] golden leaves. [ citation needed ] In Cambodia, this fruit is called Phlae Teuk Dos which means milk fruit due to its milky juices inside. [ citation needed ] In Hong Kong, it is called 牛奶果 (lit. : milk fruit), and in China, it is called 金星果 (lit. : golden star fruit).
The leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple oval, entire, 5–15 cm long the underside shines with a golden color when seen from a distance. The tiny flowers are purplish white and have a sweet fragrant smell. The tree is also hermaphroditic (self-fertile). It produces a strong odor.
The fruit is globose and typically measures from 2 to 3 inches in diameter.  When ripe, it usually has purple skin with a faint green area appearing around the calyx. A radiating star pattern is visible in the pulp. Greenish-white and yellow-fruited cultivars are sometimes available. The skin is rich in latex, and both it and the rind are not edible. The flattened seeds are light brown and hard. It is a seasonal fruit bearing tree.
The fruits are used as a fresh dessert fruit it is sweet and often served chilled. Infusions of the leaves have been used against diabetes and articular rheumatism. The fruit has antioxidant properties.   The bark is considered a tonic and stimulant, and a bark decoction is used as an antitussive. The fruit also exists in three colors, dark purple, greenish brown and yellow. The purple fruit has a denser skin and texture while the greenish brown fruit has a thin skin and a more liquid pulp the yellow variety is less common and difficult to find.
A number of closely related species, also called star apples, are grown in Africa including C. albidum and C. africanum. 
In Vietnam, the most famous variety is Lò Rèn milk fruit coming from Vĩnh Kim commune, Châu Thành District, Tiền Giang Province.
What Is A Star Apple: Learn About Cainito Tree Cultivation - garden
Abiaba, achras caimito, aguay, cainito, estrella, golden leaf tree, pomme de lait, star apple, sterappel.
Sapotaceae (Sapote Family).
Star apple is a beautiful tropical tree, growing rapidly up to 75 feet or more in height.
It has round, purple skinned fruit, which is often green around the calyx, with a star pattern in the pulp.
The skin and rind are not edible.
Sometimes there is a greenish - white variety of the fruit. The reverse side of the oval leaves shines like a golden color seen from a distance that's why it is also called golden leaf tree.
The tiny flowers are purplish white and have a sweet fragrant smell.
Cainito is hermaphroditic (self fertile).
In Suriname the golden leaf tree bears fruit year around.
The fruits are delicious as a fresh dessert fruit the flattened seeds are light - brown and hard.
Golden leaf tree starts bearing fruit in 7 (seven) years.
Star apple seeds are used in Venezuela as a diuretic and febrifuge.
In Cuba, a decoction of the leaves is used as a cancer remedy, while a decoction of the bark is used as an antitussive (cough suppressant).
Other uses of the fruit: as a treatment for diabetes.
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USDA zone 9 - 11.
Seeds and budding.
Due to recalcitrant nature of the seeds, they have a short viable life, can not be dried well and can not withstand low temperatures.
Full sun well drained, rich clay -, loam - or sandy soil.
Soils: highly alkaline up to PH 7.5.
Star apple is a tropical species but can be grown in South Florida.
Temperatures below 28 degrees F. will serious injure the mature plant, while young trees exposed to 31 degrees F. will be killed.