The Malay apple is native to Malaysia and has the reputation of being one of the most attractive flowering tropical fruits in the world. Trees are quite handsome, attaining heights of 30 to 60 feet and have a habit of upright growth which gives them an attractive columnar shape. In the tropics, Malay apple often is used as a street tree, particularly in Central America. Their long leathery green leaves can be 6 to 12 inches in length and from 3 to 4 inches in width.
Trees grow well in a wide variety of soils and are commonly propagated by seeds. Seedling trees take 4 to 6 years to reach bearing size, but superior varieties can be grafted or air-layered. The flowers are one of the most attractive features of the tree and are 2 to 3 inches across, usually dark pink or red and will completely cover the mature limbs. After a few days when they fall to the ground, they create a beautiful carpet of red beneath the tree. The large colorful fruit is pear-shaped, and is some 2 to 4 inches in length and about 2½ inches in width. The skin of the fruit is thin and shiny and is normally red; some varieties can have white or even purple fruit.
The flesh is much like that of an apple, and usually has one large round single seed, about 1 inch in diameter, in the middle of the fruit which is lightly attached to the flesh. Fruits vary widely in quality, some being very watery, while others have a good flavor like an apple with a slight hint of rose. The fruit is usually eaten raw, but in many countries is more popular cooked with other types of fruits. Trees produce in the tropics over a long season, especially those areas with abundant rainfall. Here in Florida, usually 2 crops are produced during the year, one during the summer and another in late fall.
Trees should be fertilized for maximum production with a good quality fertilizer every 3 to 4 months. Irrigate trees about once a week to keep them from dropping a large amount of foliage. The major threat to the Malay apple in Florida is cold weather. Hard freezes can easily do major damage to mature trees or kill young ones back to the ground. Young trees should always be planted in a sheltered location in the landscape where they are protected by buildings or more cold-hardy trees. Malay apple has some salt tolerance but should be kept away from strong salt wind close to the ocean or Intracoastal Waterway. Trees can often be burned by strong salt wind, making them unattractive.
DATE: March 1994
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