SCIENTIFIC NAME: Garcinia mangostana
FAMILY: Guttiferae

Described as Malaysia's most delicious fruit, the Purple mangosteen is fast spreading through out the tropical world and is now one of South East Asia's most important market fruits. This purplish-black, round fruit of 6 to 7cm in diameter contains sweet-acid segments of white flesh which simply melt in your mouth.

It also has the following unique and unusual features:

Its flower is 'perfect', needing no pollination. It cannot be crossed: it has no clonal varieties. Its seedlings are true to form.

The wood is dark, dense and hard and is used in carving.

The tree is one of the slowest growing, taking 10 to 20 years to bear.

The number of woody lobes at the apex of the fruit equals the number of segments inside.

The skin (a thick, stringy rind) is so bitter, mostly due to tannic acid, that it suffers no insect or animal damage.

It is a native of Malaysia.

The tree does not require pruning.

The rind of the fruit does not collapse with shelf life, rather it hardens.

The leaves and bark yield a commercial yellow dye.

The rind yields a purple dye.

The tree is highly resistant to practically all forms of fungi, even when grown in very wet conditions.

The rind is charred, pulverised and mixed with camphor to make kampong toothpaste.

The bark and rind are used medicinally for stomach ailments. Extracts of the rind are used in treating some forms of skin rash. Fruit eaten in large quantities activates the sweat glands.

Only six trees have so far fruited in Australia. However, hundreds are now being planted.

The purple mangosteen's evolutionary development appears to be almost complete, being highly resistant to all pests and diseases, is reproduced by parthenogenesis (needing no flower pollination), and its flavour is unsurpassable. In fact, it could easily be described as the perfect fruit tree.

John Marshall

DATE: January 1981

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