Mammea americana, commonly known as mammee, mammee apple, mamey,
mamey apple, Santo Domingo apricot or South American apricot, is an
evergreen tree of the family Calophyllaceae, whose fruit is edible.
The species is a close relative of the mangosteen.
Mammea americana is often confused with the mamey sapote tree (Pouteria
sapota), whose fruit is also called mammee or mamey.
The mammee tree is 18–21 m high and is similar in appearance to the
southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). Its trunk is short and
reaches 1.9-1.2 m in diameter. The tree's upright branches form an
oval head. Its dark-green foliage is quite dense, with opposite,
leathery, elliptic leaves. The leaves can reach 10 cm wide and twice
The mammee flower is fragrant, has 4 or 6 white petals, and
reaches 2.5–4 cm wide when fully blossomed. The flowers are borne
either singly or in clusters of two or three, on short stalks. There
can be, in a single flower, pistils, stamens or both, so there can
be male, female or hermaphrodite flowers on one tree or separately.
The mammee apple is a berry, though it is often misinterpreted to
be a drupe. It is round or slightly irregular, with a brown or
grey-brown 3-mm thick rind. In fact, the rind consists of the
exocarp and mesocarp of the fruit, while the pulp is formed from the
endocarp. The stem is thick and short. The mammee apple has more or
less visible floral remnant at the apex.
Mammee apples' diameter ranges from 10 to 20 cm. When unripe, the
fruit is hard and heavy, but its flesh slightly softens when fully
ripe. Beneath the skin, there is a white, dry membrane, whose taste
is astringent, that adheres to the flesh. The flesh is orange or
yellow, not fibrous, and can have various textures (crispy or juicy,
firm or tender). Generally, the flesh smell is pleasant and
Small fruits contain a single seed, while larger ones might have
up to four. The seeds are brown, rough, oval and around 6 cm long.
The juice of the seed leaves an indelible stain.
Propagation can be done by seed. Germination takes place from
60-260 days. Grafting is the preferred method of propagation.
Distribution and habitat
The tree comes from tropical South America. In 1529, it was
included by Oviedo in his Review of the Fruits of the New World. It
was then introduced to various regions in the Old World: West
Africa, particularly Sierra Leone, Zanzibar, Southeast Asia and
Hawaii. In the United States, the species is uniquely found in
Hawaii and Florida. In the latter state, mammee apples were probably
introduced from the Bahamas.
The mammea apple tree is confined to tropical or subtropical
climates. In Central America, the species is found to grow up to an
altitude of 1,000 m. It thrives best in rich, deep and well-drained
soil, but is very adaptive; it also grows on limestone in Jamaica,
in the oolithic limestone of the Bahamas, and on ancient coral
bedrock in Barbados as well as coral cays off the coast of Florida.
The tree is very sensitive to low temperatures, but seems
remarkably resistant to pests and diseases.
The tree has limited medical potential. Nevertheless, antibiotic
principles have been reported to be found in mammee apples.
Underripe fruits are rich in pectin, and the tree bark is high in
In traditional medicines of Central and South America, powdered mammey seeds are used against parasitic skin diseases. Ground seeds
are stirred into hot water to obtain an anthelmintic infusion.
In Trinidad & Tobago, the grated seeds are mixed with rum or
coconut oil to treat head lice and chiggers.
Though edible, this fruit has received little attention
The raw flesh can be served in fruit salads, or with wine, sugar
or cream, especially in Jamaica. In the Bahamas, the flesh is first
put in salted water to remove its bitterness, before cooking it with
much sugar to make a sort of jam. The flesh can also be consumed
In the French West Indies, an aromatic liqueur, Eau de Créole, or
Crème de Créole, is distilled from the mammee flowers. This liqueur
is believed to be tonic or digestive.
In El Salvador, a mamey-flavoured carbonated drink called
kolashanpan is considered by most the national soda.
Various parts of the tree contain insecticidal substances,
especially the seed kernel. In Puerto Rico, mammee leaves are
wrapped around young tomato plants to keep mole crickets and
cutworms away. In a similar way, the bark gum is melted with fat in
Jamaica and Mexico, then applied to feet to repel chiggers or fleas
on animals. The same effect is also obtained from infusions of
In the Virgin Islands, the tannin from the bark is used to tan
leather. The mammee timber is heavy and hard, yet easy to work; it
has received, however, only limited commercial interest.
Mamey is the national fruit of Cuba. It has the flavor and
texture of sweet potato pudding and it is best served as a
milkshake. It can be difficult to tell when the fruit is mature,
because they do not have a color break like mangos and they will
still be rock hard. The best way to tell if the fruit is ready to
pick is to scratch the surface. If it is green underneath, then it
needs more time. If the fruit is pink where scratched, then it is
ready to pick. They typically take four to five days to ripen once
picked, and at this stage they are soft to the touch