SCIENTIFIC NAME : ANNONA RETICULA
COMMON NAME : SUGAR APPLE / SWEETSOP / CUSTARD APPLE
The sugar apple tree ranges from 10 to 20 ft (3-6 m) in height with open crown of irregular branches, and some-what zigzag twigs. Deciduous leaves, alternately arranged on short, hairy petioles, are lanceolate or oblong, blunt tipped, 2 to 6 in (5-15cm) long and 3/4 to 2 in (2-5 cm) wide; dull-green on the upperside, pale, with a bloom, below; slightly hairy when young; aromatic when crushed. Along the branch tips, opposite the leaves, the fragrant flowers are borne singly or in groups of 2 to 4. They are oblong, 1 to 1 1/2 in (2.5-3.8 cm) long, never fully open; with 1 in (2.5 cm) long, drooping stalks, and 3 fleshy outer petals, yellow-green on the outside and pale-yellow inside with a purple or dark-red spot at the base. The 3 inner petals are merely tiny scales. The compound fruit is nearly round, ovoid, or conical; 2 1/3 to 4 in (6-10 cm) long; its thick rind composed of knobby segments, pale-green, gray-green, bluish-green, or, in one form, dull, deep-pink externally (nearly always with a bloom); separating when the fruit is ripe and revealing the mass of conically segmented, creamy-white, glistening, delightfully fragrant, juicy, sweet, delicious flesh. Many of the segments enclose a single oblong-cylindric, black or dark-brown seed about 1/2 in (1.25 cm) long. There may be a total of 20 to 38, or perhaps more, seeds in the average fruit. Some trees, however, bear seedless fruits.
The sugar apple tree requires a tropical or near-tropical climate. Generally, it does best in dry areas and it has high drought tolerance. During the blooming season, drought interferes with pollination and it is, therefore, concluded that the sugar apple should have high atmospheric humidity but no rain when flowering. In severe droughts, the tree sheds its leaves and the fruit rind hardens and will split with the advent of rain.
The sugar apple is not particular as to soil and has performed well on sand, oolitic limestone and heavy loam with good drainage. Water-logging is intolerable. The tree is shallow-rooted and doesn't need deep soil. Irrigation water containing over 300 ppm chlorine has done the tree no harm.
Sugar apple seeds have a relatively long life, having kept well for 3 to 4 years. They germinate better a week after removal from the fruit than when perfectly fresh. Germination may take 30 days or more but can be hastened by soaking for 3 days or by scarifying. The percentage of germination is said to be better in unsoaked seeds. While the tree is generally grown from seed, vegetative propagation is practiced where the crop is important and early fruiting is a distinct advantage. Seedlings may be budded or grafted when one-year old. The grafted trees are vigorous, the fruits less seedy and more uniform in size.
Inarching is 100% successful. Cuttings, layers, airlayers have a low rate of success, and trees grown by these techniques have shallow root systems and cannot endure drought as well as seedlings do.
Cropping and Yield
Seedlings 5 years old may yield 50 fruits per tree in late summer. Older trees rarely exceed 100 fruits per tree unless hand-pollinated. With age, the fruits become smaller and it is considered best to replace the trees after 10 to 20 years. The fruits will not ripen but just turn black and dry if picked before the white, yellowish or red tint appears between the rind segments, the first signs of separation. If allowed to ripen on the tree, the fruit falls apart.