An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Spondias purpurea

Spondias purpurea

The red mombin or Spanish plum, purple mombin, Jamaica plum, hog plum (Spondias purpurea L., 1762) is an arboreal species belonging to the Anacardiaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Rosidae,
Sapindales Order,
Family Anacardiaceae,
Genus Spondias,
Species S. purpurea.
The terms are synonymous:
– Spondias cirouella Tussac;
– Spondias crispula Beurl.;
– Spondias jocote-amarillo Kosterm.;
– Spondias lutea Macfad.;
– Spondias mexicana S.Watson;
– Spondias myrobalanus Jacq.;
– Spondias myrobalanus L.;
– Spondias negrosensis Kosterm.;
– Spondias oliviformis W.Bull;
– Spondias purpurea f. lutea Fawc. & Rendle;
– Spondias purpurea var. munita I.M.Johnst.;
– Warmingia pauciflora Engl..

Etymology –
The term Spondias is the Greek one for plum, due to the similarity of the fruits with those of Prunus domestica.
The specific epithet purpurea comes from the Latin purpureus, a, um, i.e. purple, in reference to the color of the flowers.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Spondias purpurea is a plant native to the tropical regions of the Americas, from Mexico to northern Colombia and the islands of the southwestern Caribbean. Its range extends from Mexico, through Central America, to Colombia.
Countries where wild populations are found include Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama.
It has also been introduced and naturalized elsewhere in the Americas, including the Bahamas, Bolivia, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Florida, French Guiana, Guyana, Haiti, the Leeward Islands, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and the Windward Islands. They were introduced to tropical Asia via the Philippines, including Java (Indonesia) and Bangladesh. They have also been introduced into West Africa, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.
Its habitat is that of low deciduous and subdeciduous forests, where it grows in regions with low humidity and during the dry season it remains devoid of foliage, it grows and develops at altitudes from 0 to 1800 m above sea level, in areas with a temperature range between 18 and 37 °C and rainfall between 800 and 1500 mm per year.

Description –
Spondias purpurea is a polygamous-dioecious or dioecious deciduous plant that grows in the form of a tree or shrub but which can reach 25 m in height but which, normally, grows between 8 and 15 meters and which is kept lower in cultivation. Like other Anacardiaceae it has an expanded shape.
The thick, gnarled trunk can have a diameter of between 30 and 80 cm.
It is a very branched plant, with greyish bark, smooth in young plants then warty and longitudinally fissured, and particularly fragile branches.
The leaves are alternate, impartipinnate, 8-26 cm long, composed of 5-25 elliptical to oblanceolate leaflets with entire or slightly narrow margins, 2-5 cm long and 1.5-2.5 cm wide, bright green on the upper part, pale below.
The inflorescences are formed on one-year-old branches without leaves; these are pubescent axillary panicles, 3-8 cm long, bearing flowers with 4-5 red or purple petals, 2-4 mm long, and 8-10 stamens.
The fruits are drupes of various shapes, ovoid, oblong or pear-shaped, usually red or purple in color, sometimes from yellow to orange, 2-5.5 cm long, smooth and shiny, with juicy, fibrous, tasty yellowish pulp. pleasant more or less acidic; the endocarp is woody, oblong, 1.5-3 cm long.
Inside there are up to 5 seeds, rarely produced, usually developing by parthenocarpy.

Cultivation –
Spondias purpurea is a plant particularly appreciated for its edible fruits, although it also provides many other products including medicines, chewing gum, edible buds, etc.
It is widely cultivated in tropical areas, especially in the Americas, for its edible fruits, and is also used as a living hedge.
The plant grows best in the subhumid, frost-free tropics at altitudes up to 2,000 meters.
It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 22 and 28°C, but can tolerate 13-35°C.
The plant does not tolerate frost. It prefers an average annual rainfall between 800 and 1,100 mm, but tolerates 600 – 1,800 mm.
For good fruit set it requires growing conditions with a marked dry season of up to 6 months.
It also requires a sunny position and, from a pedological point of view, the plants are not too demanding regarding the soil, as long as it is well drained; it does not require very fertile conditions, however very poor or shallow soils are not suitable and it prefers a pH between 6 and 7, tolerating 5.5 – 8.
Seedlings can start producing fruit when they are around 4 – 5 years old, while cuttings can start when they are 2 – 3 years old.
In Guatemala the fruits can be obtained almost in every season of the year.
Its fruits are sold in the markets of countries bordering the Caribbean, although it has been introduced in other areas such as the Philippines and Nigeria, where it is known but has not achieved the same popularity.
It reproduces almost exclusively by cutting, which roots easily, using 1-2 year old branches of 0.6-2 m in length and 4-6 cm or more in diameter, cut before the leaves emerge, kept in the dark for approximately a week and buried for about 30 cm, with the first fruiting after 2-3 years.

Customs and Traditions –
Spondias purpurea is a plant known by various common names; among these we remember: hog-plum, Jamaica plum, purple mombin, red mombin, scarlet plum, Spanish plum (English); cirouelle, mombin rouge, prune d’Espagne, prunier des Antilles (French); ameixa da Espanha, cajá, ciruela, cirigüela, imbu, imbuzeiro, serigüela (Portuguese); cirgüelo, ciruela colorada, ciruela española, ciruela mexicana, ciruela morada, ciruelo, hobo, jocote, jocote comun, jocote de verano, ovo, yocote (Spanish); rote mombinpflaume, spanische pflaume (German).
The fruit for which it is cultivated takes the name of jocote, from the Spanish jocote, which in turn derives from the word in the Nahuatl language: xocotl, which simply means fruit.
Jocote trees have been used for thousands of years by the populations of Mexico and Central America (Mesoamerica), both for food and medicinal uses. Trees are also used to create living fences and to help stop soil erosion. A sap or gum from the tree is used as glue, and the same material is combined with sapote or pineapple to create a jaundice treatment.
Spanish explorers brought the jocote fruit to the Philippines, where it is popular. Jocote trees have been spotted in Florida, although they are not cultivated and are probably planted as curiosities. Jocotes can be found in specialty stores serving Central American cuisine and products.
Since 2011, jocote has been grown in Chiapas, Mexico, providing much-needed work for producers in the area and a good tree to plant in areas affected by soil erosion.
The pulp of the fruit is consumed fresh or boiled and dried in the sun or in the form of juice, jellies, jams or used to prepare alcoholic drinks, the young leaves are consumed raw or cooked as vegetables. The most important adversity is represented by fruit flies (mainly Ceratitis capitata Wiedemann, 1824 and Anastrepha ludens Loew, 1873) which can cause serious damage and limit production. It is often used, due to the ease with which it reproduces, as a border barrier.
In the medicinal field, the bark decoction is used to treat anemia, gastrointestinal disorders (amoebiasis, diarrhea, dysentery, stomach pain, gastritis), fever, kidney stones, colds, conjunctivitis, jaundice, anemia and kidney pain.
The decoction of the fruit is used to treat kidney diseases.
Topically it is used in the treatment of stubborn ulcers, inflamed gums, sarcopteosis and scabies.
The root is used topically for infections, rashes, and headaches.
The wood is white and soft, light and fragile. It is said to have been used in Brazil for paper pulp.
Easily cut and brittle branches are potential firewood.
Other uses include agroforestry uses.
It is often planted as living fence posts, being one of the best trees for this purpose in Terra Caliente.
Even the largest branches, when cut and planted in the ground, take root quickly and are often planted thickly to form immediate barriers.
In some regions, wood ash is used in soap making.
Some cosmetic and hygiene products, for example soap, are made from parts of this tree.
The seeds have a thick rubbery coating commonly used in chili stews. This gum has good solubility in water and produces polysaccharides by hydrolysis. Aspartic acid and valine are its main amino acid constituents.
As regards the conservation status, it is reported that the recognition and conservation of the numerous variations that this species presents is probably due to human action. Although these species have been introduced to cultivation for commercial purposes, information on the different genotypes present is scarce, mainly due to the fact that their cultivation relies on informal agriculture such as backyard gardens, living fences and small farms, as it grows spontaneously in areas that are difficult to access. The cultivated varieties can be divided into two groups: summer jocotes, which bear fruit during the dry season (from December to May) and winter jocotes, whose fruit production goes from September to December.
Unfortunately, due to the reduction in the area of tropical dry forests in Mesoamerica, native populations of the wild ancestor of S. purpurea have declined. Cultivation of this species in traditional agricultural habitats such as gardens and fences appears to have preserved several haplotypes of this species, which would otherwise have become extinct.

Preparation Method –
Spondias purpurea is a plant that is used mainly in the food and medicinal fields.
In edible use, the fruits are consumed raw or cooked.
They have a spicy, sub-acid flavour, and the juicy yellow flesh is said to have a plum-like flavour. They are eaten raw or cooked with sugar.
They are usually eaten ripe and raw, although children, and even some adults, eat the green, tart fruits.
The fruits are also used to make jams, ice creams, etc.
Unripe fruits are pickled or made into a tart green sauce.
The young shoots and leaves are often conspicuously colored red and purple; they have a rather pleasant acidic flavor and are often eaten raw by children or adults but can also be cooked.
The leaves contain 5.5% protein.
The seeds are also edible.
In the medicinal field the leaves show antibacterial properties.
The juice of the leaves is taken orally in the treatment of swollen glands and trauma.
The crushed leaves are applied as a poultice to cure headaches.
In large quantities the fruit is laxative and is used as a treatment for constipation.
The plant is also used to treat dysentery and diarrhea, while parts of the plant are used in the preparation of a herbal remedy for sore throats.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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