Mammea americana (mamey apple)
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Mammea americana L.
Preferred Common Name
- mamey apple
International Common Names
- Spanish: mamey
- French: abricotier de Saint Dominique; abricotier des Antilles; mammée
Local Common Names
- Brazil: abricoteira-do-Para
- Cuba: mamey de Santo Domingo
- Germany: Brüstenbaum, Amerikanischer; Mammay-Apfelbaum; Mammi-Apfelbaum
- Italy: albicocco d'America; mamei
- MAFAM (Mammea americana)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Theales
- Family: Clusiaceae
- Genus: Mammea
- Species: Mammea americana
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The species Mammea americana L. formerly belonged to the family Clusiaceae (alt. Guttiferae), in the very diverse and large order Malpighiales; it has now been assigned to the family Calophyllaceae. Most of the 14 genera in the Calophyllaceae were formerly in the tribe Calophylleae of the family Clusiaceae. Calophyllaceae has 14 genera and about 595 species, most with a milky sap, and includes the genus Mammea with about 50 species of evergreen trees with edible one-seeded fruits.
M. americana is sometimes confused with mamey sapote (Sapotaceae) because of their similar external colour (Duarte and Paull, 2015).
DescriptionTop of page
This tropical or near-tropical evergreen tree can reach 15-22 m. It has a short trunk that may attain 0.9-1.2 m in diameter with many ascending, densely foliaged branches forming an erect, oval head.
The opposite, dark green leaves are glossy and leathery, broadly elliptic, 10-25 cm long and 5-12 cm wide, attached to the branch by petioles 8-15 cm long. The leaf base is wedge-shaped, obtuse or rounded.
The creamish-white flowers are fragrant and 2.5-4 cm wide when fully open. They have 4-6 petals and orange stamens and/or pistils. Flowers are borne singly or in clusters of two or three on short stalks on the axils of young branches. The trees can be unisexual (dioecious), hermaphrodite or can have all three types of flowers together.
The almost-round or globose berry is sometimes slightly deformed and is attached to the plant by a short, thick stem. The fruit has a more-or-less distinct tip or a bristle-like floral remnant at the apex. The fruit diameter ranges from 10 to 18 cm, with a weight of 0.5 to 0.8 kg, sometimes up to 2.0 kg. The texture is hard until fully ripe when it softens slightly. The thick, 4-5 mm outer peel is leathery, bitter, russet to greyish-brown, and rough to the touch because of small globules of latex. Beneath the bitter skin, there is a thin, dry, whitish-yellow tissue that covers the flesh and is astringent and often bitter. The flesh can be light or golden yellow to orange, non-fibrous, and varies from firm and crisp to dry to tender, melting and juicy; it is fairly free from the seed, except at certain points. The ripe flesh is very fragrant and, in the best varieties, has a pleasantly sub-acid flavour that resembles that of apricot. Small fruit have normally one seed, while larger fruit may have two to four seeds. The seeds are russet-brown, rough, ovoid or ellipsoid and about 5-7 cm long (Duarte and Paull, 2015).
DistributionTop of page
M. americana is native to the West Indies and northern South America. It apparently originated on the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Puerto Rico or the Lesser Antilles. There are no large commercial plantations of this species, but it is grown in Mexico and Central America, and also in parts of South America in Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru and northern Brazil, with fruit being sold in the cities. In the USA, it is considered a minor crop, and can be found growing, normally as a backyard tree, in both Florida and Hawaii. In the lowlands of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala, it is grown as an ornamental, while in Nicaragua it is used as a border and windbreak tree in coffee plantations (Duarte and Paull, 2015).
Within its natural range, M. americana is most frequently found in semi-cultivation or in areas that have been disturbed. Consequently, it is frequently associated with exotic and aggressive native secondary species such as Mangifera indica, Spathodea campanulata and Artocarpus altilis (Janick and Paull, 2008).
Principal sources: Duarte and Paull (2015)
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Habitat ListTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
M. americana grows in hot humid climates with a mean annual temperature of 27-30°C. In Central America, it grows at altitudes up to 1000 m, sometimes even 1600 m. Growth is slow at 17-18°C and freezing temperatures, even for a short time, can kill even a mature tree. The tree grows best in moist to wet climates with a mean annual rainfall of 1500-4000 mm. M. americana flowers and produces well with no specific light or photoperiodic requirement. The tree is well adapted to resist winds.
M. americana prefers well-drained, deep soil, rich in organic matter. However, it is also adaptable to shallow, sandy soils; or the oolitic limestone of south-eastern Florida, as well as the volcanic soils of Nicaragua, the heavy soils of central Honduras, and the alkaline soils of the Peruvian north coast (Duarte and Paull, 2015).
Trees of M. americana begin flowering and bearing fruit from 8 to 13 years. In the West Indies, flowering occurs from May to October and in Trinidad and Tobago from July to September. Flowers are visited by stingless bees. Fruit may take up to a year to mature and are ripe from July to February.
UsesTop of page
The fruit of M. americana may be eaten fresh or made into preserves. For processing, the peel is removed, as well as the thin and bitter membrane. A compote is made by boiling strips or dices of the pulp in syrup with the addition of different spices. Slightly under-ripe fruit that are rich in pectin are made into jelly. Wine is made from the fruit, and in Brazil a fermented toddy is made from the sap of the tree. In some Caribbean islands, a liquor called ‘eau de creole’ is made by the distillation of the M. americana flowers with spirits of wine (Duarte and Paull, 2015).
M. americana is used in folk medicine for the treatment of scalp infections, diarrhoea, and digestive and eye problems. Some antibiotic principle is present in the pulp. In Venezuela, powdered seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic skin diseases. Without the embryo, the powdered seeds can be used to make an anthelmintic infusion for adults (Morton, 1987). An infusion of the fresh or dry leaves is given in cases of intermittent fever and extracts of the leaves are effective against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Frame et al. 1998). In addition, anti-malarial properties have also been suggested (Brandao et al., 1985). All parts of the plant have insecticidal properties and infusions are used to kill ticks, fleas and mites. Various extracts from the fruit, bark, leaves, or roots are toxic to moths, beetle larvae, and also to bugs, ticks and fleas. Seed extracts are toxic to fish, chickens and pigs.
The heartwood of M. americana is purple-brown or reddish, and the sapwood has a lighter colour. The wood is heavy, hard, fine-grained and strong; it can be easily worked and has an attractive grain that polishes well, it is useful in cabinetwork, valued for pillars, rafters, decorative features of fine houses, interior sheathing, turnery and posts since it is fairly decay-resistant, though highly susceptible to termites. The tree is planted as a shade and windbreak. The dark green, shiny leaves and dense foliage make it a beautiful ornamental tree.
Uses ListTop of page
Human food and beverage
- Beverage base
ReferencesTop of page
Frame, A.; Rios-Olivares, E.; De, J. L.; Ortiz, D.; Pagan, J.; Mendez, S., 1998. Plants from Puerto Rico with anti-mycobacterium tuberculosis properties, P R Health Science Journal, 17:243-252
Oviedo Prieto R; Herrera Oliver P; Caluff MG, et al. , 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.
Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff M G, et al, 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba. 6 (Special Issue No. 1), 22-96.
Distribution MapsTop of page
Select a dataset
CABI Summary Records
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