Growing mamey fruit trees are indigenous to areas of the Caribbean, West Indies, Central America and Northern South America. Mamey tree planting for the purposes of cultivation does occur, but is rare. The tree is more commonly found in garden landscapes. It is commonly cultivated in the Bahamas and the Greater and Lesser Antilles where the climate is ideal. It can be found growing naturally along the roads of St. Croix.
It is a round, brown fruit about 4-8 inches across. Intensely aromatic, the flesh is deep orange and similar in flavor to an apricot or raspberry. The fruit is hard until completely ripened, at which time it softens. The skin is leathery with a smattering of small warty lesions under which is a thin whitish membrane – this must be scuffed off the fruit prior to eating; it’s pretty bitter. Small fruit has a solitary fruit while larger mamey fruits have two, three or four seeds, all of which can leave a permanent stain.
The tree itself resembles a magnolia and attains a medium to large size of up to 75 feet. It has dense, evergreen, foliage with dark green elliptic leaves up to 8 inches long by 4 inches wide. The mamey tree bears four to six, fragrant white petal blooms with orange stamens borne on short stalks. The flowers may be hermaphrodite, male or female, on the same or different trees and bloom during and after fruiting.
The flesh of the mammee apple fruit is used fresh in salads or boiled or cooked usually with sugar, cream or wine
Most commonly mamey tree planting may be seen as a windbreak or ornamental shade tree in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala. It is sporadically cultivated in Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, Ecuador and northern Brazil. It was most probably brought to Florida from the Bahamas, but the USDA has it recorded that seeds were received from Ecuador in 1919. Specimens of the mamey tree are few and far between, with most found in Florida where they are better able to survive, although highly susceptible to prolonged cool or cold temps.
Planting and Care
If you are interested in planting your own mamey tree, be advised that the plant requires a tropical to near tropical climate. Really, only Florida or Hawaii qualify in the United States and even there, a freeze will kill the tree. A greenhouse is an ideal place to grow a mammee apple, but keep in mind, the tree can grow to quite a significant height.
Propagate by seeds which will take two months to germinate, in almost any type of soil; the mamey is not too particular. Cuttings or grafting can be performed as well. Water the seedling regularly and place in a full sun exposure. Provided you have the proper temperature requirements, the mamey tree is an easy tree to grow and is resistant to most diseases and pests. Trees will bear fruit in six to 10 years.
Mammee Apple Trees are fast growing and require space to stretch out, so plant your rows on 18 foot centers or for individual trees choose a location at least 10 feet from other trees or shrubs.
- planting in ground – Mammee Apple Trees are fast growing and require space to stretch out, so plant your rows on 18 foot centers or for individual trees choose a location at least 10 feet from other trees or shrubs
- planting in pot – Mammee Apple Trees grow very well in containers as long as you provide an adequate size pot for root development. Select a pot 18-24 plus inches in diameter and 20 plus inches in height, with adequate drain holes. Glazed pots require far less watering than raw terracotta pots due to their porous nature.
- soil – A well draining soil is of primary importance as Mammee Apple Trees roots do not like to be wet and will rot if allowed to sit in water for extended periods. A mixture of soil, sand and perlite is highly recommended for proper drainage.
- indoor light – A bright and sunny solarium or window location with a more southern exposure is best for growth and fruit production. Many customers have reported harvesting fruit from trees that live in home and patio environments.
- outdoor light – Mammee Apple Trees prefer bright light and direct sun. If possible 12 hours of bright sun light is best for growth and fruit production though we have gotten remarkable results growing these trees in 30% shade year round.
- water – When watering Mammee Apple Trees make sure to lightly soak the soil and then do not water again until the top 2 inches are dry. Depending on light conditions, location and foliage watering may be required weekly or daily. Be sure to not over water, mucky soil will almost always cause decay and ultimately kill the tree.
- fertilizer – It is recommended that you fertilize at the same time as you water using a time released fertilizer 8-3-9 or similar to help your Mammee Apple Trees grow and produce a substantial crop. These trees are moderate feeders and may require multiple feeding during the growing season. It is important to follow the fertilizers labeled instructions as to not burn or kill the tree.
Harvesting varies according to growing location. For instance, fruit begins ripening in April in Barbados, while in the Bahamas the season lasts from May through July. And in areas of the opposite hemisphere, like New Zealand, this may take place during October on into December. In some locations, like Puerto Rico and Central Columbia, the trees may even produce two crops per year. The fruit is ripe when a yellowing of the skin appears or when lightly scratched, the usual green has been replaced by a light yellow. At this point, clip the fruit from the tree leaving a small bit of stem attached.