SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pometia pinnata
FAMILY: Sapindaceae

Photo of clusters of Pometia pinata fruits.Three trees have recently fruited in North Queensland. Two of these trees were from Papua New Guinea and one was from Fiji. The Papua New Guinea fruit was green with red patches, oblong, 3 cm by 2 cm and with a firm outer shell which requires a gentle knock to crack it open. The Fiji fruit was round to oblong, 4 cm in diameter, green all over when ripe and with a firm shell.

Both types of fruit were sweet and of good flavour with a background hint of something stronger like jakfruit or durian. Some testa (seed coat) adheres to the flesh as with rambutan. The fruit hang in terminal bunches as in most Sapindaceae species.

From the seedling stage the trees take 3 to 4 years to bear. Their frost tolerance is as yet unknown.

No clonal varieties have been named yet, although 5 different types of seedlings are now growing in the Cairns area. They are:

(1) The smaller brown-skinned type from Irian Jaya.
(2) The round green type from Fiji.
(3) The large, soft-skinned type from New Ireland.
(4) The purple and green hard-shelled type from New Britain.
(5) The hard-shelled green and red fruit from Wewak in Papua New Guinea.

The fruit is known under the names "Taun" Matoa, Fiji Longan, and Dawa.

People who know the fruit speak highly of it, although commercially, it is sold only in local markets in its native area. The tree is reported to grow well in soils with a high pH factor.

The tree is one of Papua New Guinea's most commercial timbers and is exported as "Taun". It reaches a height of 30 metres (100 ft) in the jungle, but when grown in the open (in backyards), it reaches about 15 metres and is similar in shape to a small mango tree.

John Marshall

DATE: May 1984

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