Benefits Of: WILD HONEY TREE, GUAGATUMBA

Flacourtiaceae (Flacourtia family)

When fruiting, the wild honey tree is an important food source for a wide variety of frugivorous birds.

Description. Small, bushy, evergreen tree, 4-6 m (13-20 ft) tall. Alternate, simple, elliptic leaves 4-8 cm (1.5-3 in) long with finely toothed margins and slightly pubescent blades. Small white or cream-colored hermaphroditic flowers are borne in almost sessile clusters in the axils of leaves. Fruits are cream-colored, spherical capsules measuring 0.7-1 cm (0.3-0.4 in) in diameter with soft orange-red pulp and 1-4 whitish seeds.

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical regions from the West Indies and Honduras in Central America south to Bolivia, Paraguay, and northern Argentina. Occasionally cultivated but generally rare outside its natural range. The tree requires a tropical or warm subtropical climate without frosts.

Food uses. Ripe, sweet fruits are usually eaten out of hand. The fruit is rarely seen in markets but mainly picked off the tree and consumed fresh.

Comments. Gua^atumba trees are occasionally planted in tropical gardens to attract wildlife. When in flower, they provide nectar for many different insect species, including honey bees and butterflies. In fruit, they are an important food source for a wide variety of frugivorous birds; this is a valuable tree for supporting insect and bird diversity. The hard wood is sometimes used for fence posts. Description. Small to medium-sized evergreen tree, 6-15 m (20-50 ft) tall. Alternate leaves palmately compound with 3-7 leaflets that are glabrous, lanceolate, 5-12 cm (2-5 in) long by 3-5 cm (1.2-2 in) wide. Small greenish-yellow flowers are produced in axillary or terminal panicles. Globose fruits greenish to pale yellow, 5-10 cm (2-4 in) wide, smooth skinned, ovoid or asymmetrically shaped. Soft whitish to yellow pulp with 1-6 hard white seeds. Depending on variety, the flavor of the fruit ranges from rather bland or even bitter to sweet and aromatic.

Origin and Distribution. Native from southeastern Mexico south to Costa Rica. The tree grows naturally in humid montane forests between 800 and 2,500 m (2,600-8,200 ft). Occasionally cultivated in its natural range, rarely elsewhere.

Food uses. Ripe fruits of superior varieties have a sweet, delicious pulp with an avocado-like

consistency and are usually eaten out of hand. The pulp is also made into marmalades, desserts, ice cream, and milk shakes. In parts of Central America, a fermented winelike drink is prepared from the fruits.

Comments. The genus is named after Casimiro Gomez de Ortega (1741-1818), director of the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid under the rule of George III of Spain. The word tzapotl, meaning soft, sweet fruit in the Nahuatl language, was loosely applied to a large variety of unrelated fruits. This has led to some confusion, as several fruit trees belonging to different, not even closely related families, including Sapotaceae, Rutaceae, and Ebenaceae, all bear the common English name sapote.

The poisonous seeds contain glycosides, which exhibit medicinal properties. They have been used in traditional medicine to lower blood pressure and as a sedative.

Description. Medium-sized deciduous tree, 15- 25 m (50-82 ft) tall. Alternate, compound leaves with 10-20 pairs of elliptic to oblong leaflets, each 3-6 cm (1.2-2.4 in) long by 1.5-2.5 cm (0.6-1 in) wide. Reddish-pink flowers in lateral racemes 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long. Dark brown, cylindrical, straight or slightly curved pendent fruits 30-60 cm (12-24 in) long with tough, woody, rugose exocarp and numerous brown seeds, embedded in compartments filled with a thick, sticky, dark red pulp.

Origin and Distribution. Native from southern Mexico to Venezuela, Ecuador, and Brazil. The tree grows naturally in humid lowland forests, especially those that are seasonally dry. Often grown as a showy ornamental.

Food uses. The pulp, which has an interesting flavor reminiscent of carob (Ceratonia siliqua) or of a mix of chocolate and cherries, is used in Latin America to make fruit drinks. The pulp is boiled with water or milk and then chilled and sweetened with sugar. It is often served to young children.

Benefits Of: WILD HONEY TREE, GUAGATUMBA Photo Gallery



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