Spondias dulcis

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Spondias dulcis Parkinson


Life form: tree
Usage: economic plant

Exposure: sun   10

Moisture: moist

Soil: sandy loam

Arrangement: alternate
Leaves: decidious

Shape: elliptic

Division: imparipinnate

Shape: five-stellate
Fruit: drupe

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Inflorescence: panicle

Petals: not specified
Habit: not specified

Growth form: not specified



Spondias dulcis (= Spondias cytherea), commonly known as Polynesian plum, ambarella, is a tree whose fruits look a bit like small mangos.


Spondias dulcis was described in 1786 by Sydney C. Parkinson. The name is considered as validly published.


The Polynesian plum is a species in the genus Spondias (mombin) which contains 10 species and belongs to the family of the Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family).


Spondias dulcis - habit
Spondias dulcis - flowers
Spondias dulcis - seeds


In their natural habitat these fast-growing trees grow to a height of up to 18 metres. As a potted plant they usually reach three to four metres. They have a tight upright habit with arching branches. Especially fruiting branches droop under the weigth and may even break.

Wood and Bark

The bark is light grey-brown and smooth. The light brown wood is buoyant and has been used to manufacture canoes on the Society Islands.


Spondias dulcis is a decidious plant with imparipinnate leaves. They are arranged opposite one another. The leaflets are elliptic to oblong-obovate with finely toothed margins. They turn bright yellow in autumn.

Flowers and Fruit

The inconspicious flowers are five-petaled and white. They are arranged in large terminal panicles and appear all year round.

The edible drupes are first green and ripen to golden yellow. They are up to 10 centimetres long and hae a thin but tough skin. Like the flowers the fruits appear all year round. They fall off the tree while still green and then continue to ripen.


Spondias dulcis is native to Polynesia and Melanesia. It has been introduced into a large part of the tropics and is today very common e.g. in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, many of the Carribean Islands, and Central America.


The Polynesian plum can withstand temperatures only above 1,2º C and prefers a sunny site. It grows on any cultivated soil as long as it is well drained. In pots use a mix of loamy potting soil and sand or perlite. Young specimens should have a little shade. Since the branches get brittle with age the trees should be protected from strong winds.


Outside of the tropics S. dulcis can be kept in a conservatory or as a potted plant that may be placed outside in summer.


Spondias dulcis belongs to the same family as the better known mangos and is put to similar use in a large part of the tropics. The taste of the fruits is similar to those of mangos but a bit more like pineapple when ripe. Ripe fruits are eaten out-of-hand, made into chutney or fruit juice, and can also be cooked with spices like cinnamon to something comparable to applesauce. Green fruits are made into pickles and are used to season various foods.

Maintenance and Propagation

Water freely during growth and apply a liquid balanced fertilizer every two weeks. In winter keep the plants in a bright place at around 10°C while keeping the soil just moist.

Propagate by sowing or by hardwood cuttings. In the tropics the trees are often graftes using Spondias pinnata as a rootstock. Since the seeds do not stock well they should be extracted from the puld and sown as soon as ripe. Let them soak in lukewarm water for a day or two and then put them into a mix of potting soil and sand or perlite. They germinate at temperatures between 25 and 28°C.

The plants usually bear fruits for the first time after three to four years.

Pests and Diseases

Fine webs on the plants indicate an infestation with red spider mites. These sap-sucking insects mainly appear under glass and can be controlled either with insecticide or biologically with parasitic mites.


  • Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold: Der große Zander. Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7. (Ger.)
  • Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief): RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003, ISBN 0-7513-3738-2.
  • Spondias dulcis at NewCrop of Purdue University

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