"The Wise Gardener!"
The Sensual Pulse of the Tropics!

Gardening with Tropical Fruit: The Dillenia Indica (Elephant Apple)

 

Many tropical fruits that are grown in the landscape aren’t the prettiest trees as ornamentals and few have real showy flowers. The exception of that is the Dillenia;  (Dillenia indica) native to tropical Asia.

The trees usually branch a few feet above the ground forming a medium spreading tree to a height of 30 feet or more. The leaves are quite large, up to 12 inches, with very prominent parallel veins and a toothed margin. The leaves are shiny dark green above and a lighter green beneath and the tree produces very attractive solitary white flowers sometimes measuring nine inches in diameter.

After it blooms a large greenish fruit forms which can measure 5 to 6 inches in diameter and at maturity can be eaten, although it is very acid and often requires cooking. The tree is useful in the landscape as a beautiful ornamental, both for it’s foliage and flowers even if you don’t eat the fruit.

The tree is readily propagated by seed, but does not flower for several years. There are no superior varieties available, but superior ones probably can be air layered or grafted on seedlings.

Trees grow over a wide range of soil conditions as long as it is well drained, but can develop severe micro nutrient problems in highly alkaline soils. Cold tolerance is fairly good and it can withstand light frosts without serious damage. Growth rates generally average from two to three feet a year and it also makes a great large container plant if you don’t want to put it in the outside landscaping.

There are few pest problems associated with Dillenia and it can be grown fairly close to salt water, but not directly on the ocean.

By Gene Joyner, Extension Agent; Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service