An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Spondias dulcis

Spondias dulcis

The ambarella or golden apple, great hog plum, hog plum, jew plum, otaheite apple, polynesian plum, tahitian quince, yellow plum (Spondias dulcis Parkinson, 1773) 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. dulcis.
The terms are synonymous:
– Chrysomelon pomiferum G.Forst.;
– Chrysomelon pomiferum G.Forst. ex A.Gray;
– Cytheraea dulcis (Parkinson) Wight & Arn.;
– Evia acida Blume;
– Evia amara var. tuberculosa Blume;
– Evia dulcis (Parkinson) Comm.;
– Evia dulcis (Parkinson) Comm. ex Blume;
– Evia dulcis (Parkinson) Kosterm.;
– Poupartia dulcis (Parkinson) Blume;
– Spondias acida Blume;
– Spondias cythera Sonn.;
– Spondias cytherea Sonn.;
– Spondias dulcis Sol.;
– Spondias dulcis Sol. ex G.Forst.;
– Spondias dulcis var. acida (Blume) Engl.;
– Spondias dulcis var. commersonii Engl.;
– Spondias dulcis var. dulcis;
– Spondias dulcis var. integra Engl.;
– Spondias dulcis var. mucroniserrata Engl.;
– Spondias dulcis var. mucroserrata Engl., 1883;
– Spondias fragrans Pav.;
– Spondias fragrans Pav. ex Engl.;
– Spondias longifolia Roxb.;
– Spondias lutea P.Royen;
– Spondias lutea P.Royen ex Blume;
– Spondias therebintoides P.Royen;
– Spondias therebintoides P.Royen ex Blume.

Etymology –
The term Spondias comes from the Greek, “σπονδιάς” (spondias), of the plum, due to the similarity of the fruits with those of Prunus domestica.
The specific epithet dulcis comes from the Latin “dulcis, e”, that is, sweet, grateful, in reference to the flavor of the fruits.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Spondias dulcis is a plant that has been cultivated since ancient times; The exact place of origin is not known but tropical Asia or Oceania is assumed.
It was then introduced into tropical areas around the world. It was brought to Jamaica in 1782 and is cultivated in Panama, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Brazil, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Saint Lucia, and eastern Sucre in Venezuela. It is also grown in South Florida as far south as Palm Beach County. The fruit is also widely cultivated in the agricultural area of Somalia, probably introduced during the colonial period before 1960.
Its original habitat is however unknown but it prefers dry or secondary forests from sea level up to 700 meters above sea level.

Description –
Spondias dulcis is a deciduous, short-term, highly branched tree. This plant grows up to 10-30 m tall.
The trunk is erect, cylindrical, 20-50 cm in diameter, with a smooth or slightly fissured bark of a greyish or light brown color and from whose wounds a very viscous resin exudes; there are often tabular roots at the base, similar to buttresses that contribute to the support of large trees.
The leaves are grouped at the ends of the branches on a 6-15 cm long petiole, they are alternate, impartipinnate, 20-60 cm long, composed of 9-25 oblong-ovate leaflets with pointed apex and entire or slightly toothed margin, 6 -11 cm and 2.5-4.5 cm wide, intense green in colour.
The inflorescences, which form before the leaves at the tips of the branches, are pendant panicles, up to 50 cm long, bearing numerous tiny flowers, both unisexual and hermaphroditic, with 5 white ovate petals, 2-3 mm long, retroflexed, 10 stamens and ovary with 5 styles.
The fruits are globose drupes, ovoid or oblong in shape, 4-10 cm in length and 3-8 cm in diameter, initially green in colour, then yellow-orange when ripe, with yellow fibrous pulp, with a sour taste sweet, which has a high vitamin C content; the endocarp, woody, 1.5-2.5 cm in diameter, has numerous straight or curved fibers or spines.
Inside there are up to 5 flattened oblong seeds, 1.5-2 cm long, light yellow in colour.

Cultivation –
Spondias dulcis is a fast-growing tree often grown in the tropics, both for its edible fruit and as an ornamental plant.
The plant grows best in the subhumid, frost-free tropics, where it is found from sea level up to 700 meters.
It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 22 and 27°C, but can tolerate 12-35°C.
When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to around -3°C, but shoots can be severely damaged at 0°C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall between 900 and 1,800 mm, but tolerates 600 – 2,200 mm.
The trees need to be grown in a sunny position, when they are in the shade they produce very little fruit.
The plants are not too demanding about the soil and do not require very fertile conditions. However, very poor or shallow soils are not suitable.
From a pedological point of view it grows on calcareous soils as well as on acid sands, but the soil must be well drained and prefers a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, tolerating 4.5 – 8.
The branches are rather fragile, so a sheltered position is better; furthermore, stabilized plants are resistant to drought, although they may briefly lose their leaves when under stress.
Plants can bear fruit in as little as 4 years from seed, or 2 – 3 years from cuttings.
In areas where there is no prolonged dry season, the plant can flower and fruit all year round, although in pronounced monsoon areas it usually flowers only in the dry season.
Some dwarf varieties have been selected.
The plant reproduces by seed, which does not have a long duration of germination, in a draining substrate rich in organic substance kept humid at a temperature of 25-28 °C, with rather variable germination times, starting from a month, and first flowering from the third to fourth year of age; It is also propagated by both woody and tip cuttings, layering and grafting.

Customs and Traditions –
Spondias dulcis is a plant known by various common names, including: ambarella, golden apple, great hog plum, hog plum, jew plum, otaheite apple, polynesian plum, tahitian quince, yellow plum (English); pomme de Cythère, pommier de Cythère, prune de Cythère (French); kedondong, kedondong manis (Indonesian); kook hvaan (Laotian); cajá anão, caja-manga, cajarana, taperita do sertao (Portuguese-Brazil); ambarella, ciruela dulce, hobo de racimos, jobo de la India, juplón, manzana de oro, spondias dorata (Spanish); hevi (Tagalog); makok, makok farang (Thai); cóc (Vietnamese).
Furthermore, being a plant of remote cultivation, many vernacular names are known, among which we report: ඇඹරැල්ලා (Ambarella) (Sinhala), ambarella (Dutch), amra (Bengali), buah kedondong (Malay), cajá-manga (Brazilian), cóc (Vietnamese), manzana de oro (Dominican Republic), évi (Reunion Island), goldpflaume (German), gway (Burmese), hevi (Philippines), hog plum (English), jobo indio (Castilian from Venezuela), June plum (Jamaica), kedondong (Indonesian), makok farang (Thai), manga zi nsende (Kikongo), mkak (ម្កាក់) (Khmer), mokah (Cambodia), naos (Bislama), pomarosa (Puerto Rico), prune cythère, pomme cythère (France), sugar apple (Saint Lucia), vī (Samoa), vī (Tonga), wi apple (Hawaii), pomcite (Trinidad and Tobago). Some of these names then entered ordinary use today.
This plant is most commonly used or grown as a food source. It is a very nutritious food containing vitamins B, C and A. In West Java, its young leaves are used as a seasoning for peppers. In Costa Rica, the more mature leaves are also eaten as a salad, although they are tart. However, it is most commonly used for its fruit.
The fruit can be eaten raw; the pulp is crunchy and a little acidic. According to Boning (2006): “The fruit is best when fully coloured, but still a little crunchy. At this stage it has a pineapple-mango flavour. The flesh is golden in colour, very juicy, vaguely sweet, but with a hint of acidity.” In Indonesia and Malaysia, it is eaten with shrimp paste, a thick, black, sweet-savory sauce called hayko in the Southern Min Chinese dialect. It is an ingredient in rujak in Indonesia and rojak in Malaysia. The juice is called kedondong in Indonesia, amra in Malaysia and balonglong in Singapore.
Preserves and flavorings for sauces, soups, braised meats and stews are obtained from the fruit. In Fiji it is transformed into jam, its leaves are used to flavor meat. In Samoa and Tonga it is used to prepare otai. In Sri Lanka the fruit is soaked in vinegar with chilli and other spices to make acharu. In Vietnam the unripe fruit is eaten with salt, sugar and chili pepper, or with shrimp paste. Children eat the fruit macerated in artificially sweetened licorice extract. In Jamaica it is mostly considered a novelty, especially by children. It can be eaten savory or made into a drink sweetened with sugar and spiced with ginger. In Barbados, the ripe fruit is eaten plain, or sprinkled with a little salt, or immersed in natural, slightly salty ocean water while at the beach. It is also used to make juice in Grenada and Saint Lucia. In Trinidad and Tobago it is cooked in a curry, sweetened, salted or flavored with pepper sauce and spices. In Cambodia it is made into a salad called nhoam mkak (/ɲŏam məkaʔ/ ញាំម្កាក់). In Suriname and Guyana, the fruit is dried and made into a spicy chutney, mixed with garlic and peppers. In Thai cuisine, both the fruits and the tender leaves are eaten.
Care must be taken when eating the fruit as the seeds have very sharp thorns.
Fruits, leaves and bark are used in traditional medicine for various pathologies.
The fruit pulp, when ripe, has the following composition (in 100 g):
– Vitamin C 4mg;
– Calcium 17.4 mg;
– Phosphorus 13 mg;
– Manganese 70 mg;
– Iron 410 µg;
– Copper 140 µg;
– Zinc 94 mg;
– Protein 0.36 g;
– Fat 0.2 g;
– Carbohydrates 10.9 g;
– Sucrose 6.7 mg;
– Water 87.17 g;
– Fiber 1.02 g.
Other uses include agroforestry uses.
The plant is said to be grown as a living fence.
As for the heartwood, it is light brown; the sapwood from whitish to light yellow. Wood is light; moderately soft; not durable.

Preparation Method –
Spondias dulcis is a plant highly appreciated especially for its food and medicinal uses.
The fruits are eaten raw or cooked.
When green the fruit is crunchy and subacid; as the fruit matures until it reaches a yellow color, the pulp softens; the flavor changes and the fibers become more evident.
The ripe, amber-colored, plum-shaped fruits have a sweet to sour flavor, with a light turpentine flavor.
The fruits can be made into jams, preserves, etc.
Unripe fruits are often used as a sour flavoring in sauces, soups, etc.
The unripe fruit contains about 10% pectin.
The young leaves are eaten raw or cooked and have a pleasantly acidic flavour.
They should be steamed and eaten as vegetables.
There are also several traditional medicinal uses of the fruits, leaves and bark in different parts of the world. Treatment of wounds, sores and burns is reported in several countries.
Some parts of the plant produce a fermented drink used as a remedy for diarrhea.
The juice of the plant is used as eye drops to reduce eye inflammation.
The buds of the plant are used to treat postpartum hemorrhages.
The pressed liquid obtained from the stem is administered after a false pregnancy, and for weakness following childbirth.
An infusion of the leaves is used to treat sore throats and mouth infections.
The pressed liquid obtained from the bark is taken to purify the intestines.
The filtrate of the bark is also used as an abortifacient, to promote sterility, and to treat fish poisoning.
A few drops of the pressed bark fluid are applied to the eyes as a remedy for cataracts.
The fluid squeezed from the bark is used in the treatment of diarrhea, while the bark is also used to treat dysentery.
The inner bark is used to treat coughs, fever and stomach aches. It is also used to treat mouth and body wounds.
The fruit is slightly diuretic; the grated fruit, mixed with water, is used to treat hypertension.
The less ripe fruits are used to treat stomach ailments and to help women in labor.

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.

Photo source:

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *