Spondias purpurea (red mombin)
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Spondias purpurea L.
Preferred Common Name
- red mombin
Other Scientific Names
- Spondias dulcis Blanco
International Common Names
- English: purple mombin; spanish plum tree
- Spanish: ciruelo del fraile (Bolivia); ciruelo mexicano (Chile); jocote colorado
- French: mombin rouge
Local Common Names
- Germany: Mombin-Pflaumenbaum, Roter
- SPXPU (Spondias purpurea)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Sapindales
- Family: Anacardiaceae
- Genus: Spondias
- Species: Spondias purpurea
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Spondias purpurea is a well-defined and taxonomically separate species from other Spondias spp. (Barfod, 1987). No taxonomic treatment is available of the varieties or of the species’ genetic diversity (Duarte and Paull, 2015).
DescriptionTop of page
In the lowland tropics, the species is a small, low-branched deciduous tree or shrub (3-6 m) and in the highlands a spreading, thick-trunked tree that can reach 7-15 m. The open canopy can spread up to 15 m (Leon, 1983), with a trunk that can reach a diameter of 50 cm. The bark is grey and usually smooth. The main branches tend to grow horizontally and all branches are fairly brittle. Cuts and bruises in the bark produce a thick and transparent exudate.
The compound leaves have 9-19 nearly sessile obovate to lanceolate or oblong-elliptic, alternate, 2-6 cm long by 1.25 cm wide leaflets that are bright red or purple, becoming green when mature.
The axillary inflorescences come in 1-10 cm long panicles with a few flowers that usually appear at the older and defoliated nodes. Each panicle has male, female and bisexual flowers. The flowers have 4-5 sepals and 4-5 tiny red to purple petals that are usually 2.5-3.5 mm long at anthesis. Pollen is normally not formed because the mother cells of the micro-sporangia do not develop (Juliano, 1932).
Fruit are parthenocarpic. An oblong to obovoid, sub-globose or even pear-shaped drupe, measuring 2.5-5.0 by 1.0-3.5 cm, with a smooth and glossy peel. The fruit appear solitary or in groups of two or three. The ripe fruit is normally dark or bright red but can be purple, orange, red-and-yellow, and sometimes even yellow, and can be confused with the yellow mombin. The mesocarp is fleshy and juicy, 5-7 mm thick, acid in flavour, very aromatic, yellow, and fibrous, and is attached to a fibrous and hard endocarp that can be 1.25-2.5 cm long and normally has no seeds but the vestiges of unfertilized ovules (Avilan et al., 1989, Duarte and Paull, 2015).
DistributionTop of page
The red mombin is native to Central America and Southern Mexico, and natural populations are found in both dry and wet areas, including a wide range of semi-deciduous forests (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
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|India||Present||CABI Data Mining (Undated)|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||CABI (Undated)|
|Costa Rica||Present||CABI Data Mining (Undated)|
|El Salvador||Present||CABI (Undated)|
|Martinique||Present||CABI Data Mining (Undated)|
|Mexico||Present||CABI Data Mining (Undated)|
|Saint Lucia||Present||CABI (Undated)|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present||CABI (Undated)|
|Brazil||Present||CABI Data Mining (Undated)|
|-Goias||Present||CABI Data Mining (Undated)|
|-Sao Paulo||Present||CABI (Undated)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Red mombin is adapted to dry and semi-humid tropics up to 1600 m elevation, as well as to the subtropics. In Guatemala, it is grown from sea level to 2100 m and it is also grown in the subtropics of the Peruvian central coast northwards. It flowers well in wet or dry climates but fruit from dry areas are of better quality. In very cool climates, it can grow but does not flower.
The plant grows best under full sunlight and in places with a prolonged dry season where defoliation is an adaptation mechanism. There seems to be no photoperiod response. It can be found in areas with an average annual precipitation varying from 300 to 1800 mm. In dry areas, it usually sprouts and flowers at the onset of the rainy season.
The spreading and low-branching habit makes the tree less prone to damage by wind, but the brittle branches can be a negative factor when strong winds occur (Duarte and Paull, 2015).
The tree is able to grow normally on rocky substrates, slopes or different soil types, including those of little agricultural value due to a wide physiological and anatomical plasticity (Pimenta-Barrios and Ramirez-Hernandez, 2003). A mycorrhizal symbiosis can be associated with the root and this favours plant growth by promoting phosphorus absorption (Janick and Paull, 2008).
Flower and Fruit development
Flowering time varies with climate, but usually occurs during the dry season when trees are defoliated or just as the young new leaves emerge. New vegetative shoots are produced and may constitute the major part of the potentially flower-bearing ramets. In areas with year-round precipitation, flowering may occur continuously. In dry areas, depending upon the tree’s phenology, flowering can be controlled by carefully planned irrigation (Macia and Barfod, 2000). If trees are treated with 12% urea to induce defoliation, flowering is advanced by 30-40 days (Almaguer-Vargas et al., 1991).
The parthenocarpic fruit takes about 115 days from anthesis to the start of ripening (Silva et al., 2001). The new vegetative shoots and the fruit mature at the same time. Fruit usually ripen during the dry season, when a high number of hours of exposure to full sunlight produce more sugars and hence better fruit quality (Janick and Paull, 2008).
UsesTop of page
Red mombin is eaten green, half mature or ripe (Leon, 1983). Green fruit are eaten with salt and vinegar as a snack or boiled in syrup; ripe red fruit are mainly eaten fresh. The soft exocarp is easily injured and so the mesocarp is often processed into marmalade, juice, wine and liquor. The pulp is used to flavour ice cream. In Mexico and Guatemala, dry fruit are eaten in a dessert made with brown sugar; a fermented drink is also prepared in these countries (Duarte and Paull, 2015).
Uses ListTop of page
Human food and beverage
ReferencesTop of page
Almaguer-Vargas, G., Espinoza-Espinoza, J. R., Martinez-Bravo, A., Amador-Gomes, J., 1991. Chemical defoliation for advancing harvest in guava (Psidium guajava L.) and Spanish plum (Spondias purpurea L.)., Proceedings of the Interamerican Society for Tropical Horticulture: Volume 35. 37th Annual Meeting, Vina del Mar, Chile, October 7-12, 1991, 35:71-75
Avilan, L., Leal, F., Bautista, D., 1989. Manual de Fruticultura; Cultivo y Producción , [ed. by América C.A]. Caracas, Venezuela:437-441
Barbeau, G., 1990. Frutas Tropicales en Nicaragua. Dirección General de Técnicas Agropecuarias, MIDINRA [ed. by Ciencias Sociales]. Managua, Nicaragua, p. 113.
Barfod, A., 1987. Anacardiaceae. In: Flora of Ecuador 30 [ed. By Harling, G., Andersson, L.]. Arlöv, Sweden, pp. 9-49.
Leon, J., 1983. Underutilized fruits of Central America and northern South America. Proceedings of the Tropical Region American Society for Horticultural Science, 27: 1-20.
Silva, S. de M., Martins, L. P., Alves, R. E., Filgueiras, H. A. C., 2001. Carbohydrate-related changes in red mombin (Spondias purpurea L.) fruit., Proceedings of the Interamerican Society for Tropical Horticulture, 45:38-41
CABI Data Mining, Undated. CAB Abstracts Data Mining.,
CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI
Distribution MapsTop of page
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