Many tropical fruits grow very quickly. That's good, if one has sufficient space for them to develop into large trees. But many properties are already heavily planted and have to be planted more carefully. Slower growing trees are often more appreciated because fruit is enjoyed without a lot of pruning to keep the plant within its given amount of space.
One such tree from Africa is the imbe (Garcinia livingstonei). This is a slow growing tree with leathery four to six inch long dark green leaves with white veins, and it rarely exceeds twenty feet here in Florida. Flowers are produced in the early spring, and trees come separate male and female, so two trees are necessary to get heavy quantities of fruit. Single female trees may bear a few fruits, but they are generally small in size.
The fruit season usually begins late May and extends through June into early July. Fruits are dull orange, about one-and-a-half to two inches across the thin skin, with one or more large seeds surrounded by a watery thin pulp that tastes somewhat like an apricot to this author. The fruit is eaten fresh, or can be used for jellies and jams and the quantity of fruit produced is usually quite high on well-cared for trees.
Trees grow well over a wide variety of soils and have excellent salt tolerance if planted close to salt water. Mature trees can withstand cold to about 26°F before being damaged severely, and once well-established, they are quite drought tolerant. They can grow in areas that have little supplemental irrigation.
Most trees are propagated by the nursery industry from seed. It takes two to four years to start flowering and then the sex can be determined. If earlier fruiting is desired, they veneer graft easily and one can graft seedlings with female-bearing fruit scions.
This particular tree is great as a container plant, too. So, if you have a large porch or patio area where you want some tropical fruits, this would make a good candidate and it is quite an attractive ornamental when not in fruit.
As a landscape plant, many people will graft a male branch onto a female trea to provide pollen and increase the amount and size of the fruit set. Otherwise, plant two trees, one of each sex, in close proximity. Mature fruit is sometimes attacked by the Caribbean fruit fly, but that is the only major problem and usually birds and other animals leave the fruit alone.
DATE: November 2000
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