Anacardium occidentale L. (Anacardiaceae)
by Mrs. Norzielawati Bt. Salleh & Dr. Lee Su See
Anacardium occidentale L. (Anacardiaceae)
by Mrs. Norzielawati Bt. Salleh & Dr. Lee Su See

The cashew, Anacardium occidentale is native to Brazil but most people in Malaysia think it is Malaysian. In Asia the tree is widely grown in tropical and subtropical regions of Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. It can be grown in sandy soils, in areas with high temperatures and a dry season. In Peninsular Malaysia, the tree is mostly planted on drier sandy soils along the east coast and in the north.

The young leaves are popular in ‘ulam’ (plants that consist of shoots, leaves, stems, seeds, fruits, tubers and flowers are eaten raw, blanched or cooked before eating) and Malays believe, when eaten raw, it can cure certain diseases and make one look youthful. The fleshy cashew apple which bears the seed at one end, has very juicy, light red, spongy flesh with an acidic and pleasant but slightly astringent taste when eaten raw. What is special about this plant is the fruit, more commonly called the nut. Inside the dark nut shell is a large edible curved seed. This is the so-called cashew nut which is an important commercial crop in some parts of the world. Botanically, the nut is the real fruit and the fleshy cashew apple is the swollen fruit stalk.

Anacardium occidentale, locally known as ketereh or gajus in Malay belongs to the same family as the mango, the Anacardiaceae. Ketereh or te’ re’ (in Kelantan dialect) is the name of Ketereh District in Kelantan, where long ago there were a lot of cashew trees. In other countries, A. occidentale is known by various names such as cashew nut (English), jambu monyet (Indonesian & Javanese), jambu golok (Malay-Terengganu), kaju (Hindi), hijli badam (Bengali) and agnikrita (Sanskrit). The genus name Anacardium (ana means “upwards” and –cardium means “heart”) was first given by the famous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus to the mango which has a vaguely heart-shaped fruit.

Anacardium occidentale is a small evergreen tree to 15 m tall, with a spreading and much branched crown. It has simple, alternate, coriaceous, glabrous, obovate leaves, rounded at the ends, reddish to pale green when young and dark green when mature. The inflorescence is a terminal panicle-like cluster consisting of male and hermaphroditic flowers in the same inflorescence. Female flowers have five green sepals and five green yellowish petals. The male flowers bear one long stamen and nine staminodes.

The conservation status of Anacardium occidentale still not clarified under the IUCN, but this plant continously planted for their nut production escpecially in Southeast Asia likes Indonesia and Vietnam.


  1. Zawiah, N. & Othaman, H. (2012). 99 Spesies Buah di FRIM. Institut Penyelidikan Perhutanan Malaysia, Kementerian Sumber Asli dan Alam Sekitar, Malaysia. pp. 22-23, 256.
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