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Chrysophyllum cainito L. (Sapotaceae)
by Mrs. Syazwani Bt. Azeman
© Syazwani Azeman

Commonly known as Star Apple in English or epal bintang in Malay, Chrysophyllum cainito in the family Sapotaceae, is a small evergreen tree native to Central America and the West Indies. The genus name Chrysophyllum, meaning “golden-leaved”, is derived from the Greek words for “gold” and “leaf”, in reference to the golden hairy underside of the leaves, while cainito is the West Indian vernacular for Star Apple (NParks Flora Fauna website, 2020). This tree is commonly planted in the Philippines, Thailand and Indo-China while in Malaysia, it can be found in Perak, Selangor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Johor and Malacca (Zawiah & Othaman, 2012).

This tree can grow up to 21 m in height with a straight, cylindrical trunk that can be up to 60 cm in diameter, usually with a fluted or spurred base. The bark is brownish with a rough and irregular fissured surface while the inner bark is orange-white to yellow-white, fibrous and exuding white latex when cut. The leaves are simple, elliptic or oblong-elliptic in shape with green upper surface and coppery beneath (Zawiah & Othaman, 2012). The petiole is reddish-brown, hairy, 1.3-1.6 cm long. The inflorescence is axillary, ramiflorous or cauliflorous. Each inflorescence contains 5-35 unisexual or bisexual flowers which are small and inconspicuous, yellowish-white in colour. The seeds are black, about 1 cm long (Aman, 2001).

The fruit is usually round, 5-10 cm in diameter with a smooth, glossy surface, green with purple stripes, or fully purple in colour. The young fruits contain more latex and are not suitable for eating while the matured fruits that can be eaten raw have white, transparent, sweet, soft and juicy flesh consisting of eight translucent whitish segments in which the seeds are embedded. When the fruit is halved transversely, the segments appear star-like, hence the common name Star Apple (Zawiah & Othaman, 2012).

The tree is usually planted along roadsides as an ornamental and/or shade tree. It has reddish to dark brown sapwood and heartwood of fine to medium texture with fairly straight grain, and is strong and hard. It can be used for general indoor construction, such as shelves and partitions, and furniture (Aman, 2001). The conservation status of this species has not yet been assessed.

References

  1. Aman, R. (2001). Buah-buahan Nadir Semenanjung Malaysia. Percetakan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia. pp. 142, 178.
  2. NParks Flora Fauna website. Chrysophyllum cainito (January 2021). National Parks Board. Retrieved January 15, 2021, from http://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/flora/6/3/6300
  3. Zawiah, N. & Othaman, H. (2012). 99 Spesies Buah di FRIM. Institut Penyelidikan Perhutanan Malaysia, Kementerian Sumber Asli dan Alam Sekitar, Malaysia. pp. 22-23 78-79,, 256.
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