Anacardiaceae – The Mango Family

Click on this list to jump down the page to that species:

-Anacardium occidentale, Cashew Apple
-Mangifera caesia, belunu, binjai, wani, white mango
Mangifera foetida, pakel
-Mangifera indica, mango
-Mangifera laurina, manga ayer
-Mangifera odorata, kuwini, kwini
-Mangifera pajang/panjang, bembangan, brown mango
-Mangifera quadrifida, rancha-rancha
-Pistacia vera
-Spondias dulcis, (AKA Spondias cytherea), ambarella, jun plum
-Spondias purpurea & Spondias mombin, jocote/mombin/hog plum/ciruela

 

-Anacardium occidentale, Cashew Apple

The cashew apple is a bizarre structure, with a sweet fruit and sticking out of the bottom of that fruit, a toxic shell that encloses the familiar cashew nut. (Photo by Abhishek Jacob)

Cashew Apple, At A Glance:
-Height: 15-30 feet
-Florida Zone: South (Protected/Coastal)
-Origin: South America
-Season: Summer-Fall
-Propagation: Seed, Cutting, Air-layer, grafting

**NOTE: This is a potentially dangerous plant, and great caution is required in working with it.**

If you’re not familiar with it, be advised that the cashew is a strange creature, which is potentially very hazardous. The first thing to know is that the tree is in the same family as poison ivy, and it has a sap that causes blistering rashes.

The cashew fruit is a bizarre structure that consists of two different kinds of food: the cashew nut that’s familiar to most Americans, and also a sweet, juicy fruit, called the cashew apple. The cashew nut, rather than being inside the fruit as you might expect, is inside a hard shell that sticks out from the bottom of the edible fruit.

The sweet fruit is called a cashew apple. It’s red or yellow, pear-shaped, about three inches in diameter, and it’s the part that’s most accessible for the home fruit-grower. Some people are very fond of this fruit, calling it “the next best fruit, after mango.”

The cashew nut is inside a hard shell, and the shell is impregnated with toxic, poison ivy-like sap. It is extremely difficult to extract the nut from the shell without contaminating the nut with this toxic sap. It’s so dangerous even to try to extract the nut that the state of Florida document on cashews states unequivocally that the average home owner should NOT attempt to extract cashew nuts from their shell. Commercially, prior to cracking the shell, the nuts go through a special roasting process which releases toxic vapors, so the roasting is done with a special chimney to vent of the fumes away from people.

So if you grow cashew, you should just eat the fruit part, the cashew apple, and compost the nut . Even though it seems sad to throw that cool home-grown nut away, it’s better than getting a poison ivy-like rash internally, all through your digestive track! (I’m actually not exactly sure what the health consequences are of ingesting cashew sap, but it sounds like it could be pretty dire). It’s best to wear gloves when harvesting the fruit and cutting it free from the nut-shell attached to it, to avoid contacting that poisonous sap.

(Technically, the combined shell and nut are the true fruit, and the cashew apple is a pseudo-fruit, a swollen peduncle/stem for the true fruit. Here, we refer to the cashew apple as a fruit because it’s so fruit-like.)

Cashew trees are very cold-sensitive, and thrive only in the warmest parts of South Florida. Even the Fruit and Spice Park in Homestead, at the southern tip of Florida, has lost cashew trees to cold winters.

Cashew trees reportedly can grow in a variety of soil types, including both the acidic sands found in much of the state, and the alkaline limerock soils prevalent in Dade County. They are reportedly sensitive to wet feet, so in high water table areas it may be necessary to plant them on a mound.

The IFAS report states that superior dwarf cultivars of cashew have been selected in Brazil and India, but these varieties have not yet been imported into Florida. Somebody who wants to jump through the regulatory hurdles of plant importation, please get busy on this!

 

-Mangifera caesia, belunu, binjai, wani, white mango
Mangifera foetida, pakel

-Mangifera indica, mango

Mangoes are THE fruit for millions of people, both in South Florida and throughout the tropical areas of the world.

Mangoes, At A Glance:
-Height: 15-50 feet
-Florida Zone: South, Central (Protected/Coastal)
-Origin: SE Asia
-Season: May-August
-Propagation: grafting, seed

For millions of people around the tropical areas of the world, mango is THE fruit, because of its outstanding productivity and phenomenal flavor. Many Florida gardeners begin their love affair with tropical fruit by planting their first mango tree.

Mango trees grow well throughout much of South Florida, and in coastal areas as far as about Melbourne on the east coast, and Tampa on the west coast. In interior areas of Central Florida, mangoes can grow and fruit in warmer microclimates, where they receive warmth from nearby buildings, evergreen trees, or lakes, especially after a run of mild winters. In more exposed interior areas of Central Florida, and in almost all of North Florida, winter cold prevents mangoes from from growing well enough to produce fruit outside of a greenhouse.

There are two main races of mango: Indian types, which produce rounded fruit and can be susceptible to anthracnose in humid climates like Florida, and Philippine types, which have more elongated fruits, and are more disease-resistant in Florida humidity.

Mangoes can be grown from seed, but the results are variable. Many seedling mango trees are excellent, but some are lesser quality. To achieve consistent results, plant grafted trees.

This is mango variety ‘Haden’, and its story is a great illustration of how the process of fruit improvement can work.

There are hundreds of excellent varieties of mango grown in South Florida, available in nurseries as grafted trees. A few of the the popular ones are Alphonse, Julie, East Indian, Cogshall, Bailey’s Marvel, Valencia Pride, Mallika, Kent, Keitt, Glenn, Carrie, and Nam Doc Mai. There are many, many outstanding varieties not on this very short list.

There aren’t any truly dwarf mangos, but some with a smaller growth habit are Cogshall, Julie, and Carrie.

Mangoes grow well both in acidic Florida sand, and in alkaline lime rock soil of Dade county (with some micro-nutrient supplementation).

The story of mango variety ‘Haden’ is a great illustration of how the process of fruit improvement can work.
In 1902, John and Florence Haden planted 48 seedling mango trees at their retirement home in Coconut Grove, Florida. John died the following year, but Florence continued to care for the young mango trees. When they started fruiting a few years later, Florence recognized that one of the trees produced superior fruit, with great color and better flavor than other mango varieties being grown at that time. She gave it the family name ‘Haden’, and brought it to the attention of agricultural officials and nursery owners. Within a few years, nurseries were cranking out grafted ‘Haden’ mango trees by the thousands, and the variety became the number-one type in Florida’s commercial mango orchards, as well as in backyard plantings. Nurseries also introduced the variety into Central America, Hawaii, and Australia. People have since selected new varieties from seedlings of Haden with even better fruit quality and disease resistance, and those Haden-derived varieties are some of the top mangos in Florida and elsewhere. Today, many of the top-quality, lusciously-sweet and flavorful mangos enjoyed by millions of people around the world owe their existence to the humble efforts of a couple planting mango seedlings at their Florida retirement home over a century ago. (The original ‘Haden’ tree is still standing, and fruiting, in Coconut Grove.)

-Mangifera laurina, manga ayer
-Mangifera odorata, kuwini, kwini
-Mangifera pajang/panjang, bembangan, brown mango
-Mangifera quadrifida, rancha-rancha
-Pistacia vera
-Spondias dulcis, (AKA Spondias cytherea), ambarella, jun plum
-Spondias purpurea & Spondias mombin, jocote/mombin/hog plum/ciruela