Rose Apple

Syzygium jambos

Herbs gallery - Rose Apple

Common names

  • Malabar Plum
  • Plum Rose
  • Rose Apple

Although the rose apple (Syzygium jambos) trees are called shrubs, normally these trees can grow up to a height of anything between 25 feet and 40 feet (7.5 meters and 12 meters). The crown of these trees is compact and comprises slim and widely spreading branches. Rose apple tree bears blooms that are creamy-white. Occasionally, the flowers also have a greenish-white hue. The flowers measure about 2 inches to 4 inches (5 cm to 10 cm) across and more often than not comprise 300 prominent stamens measuring about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in length, a calyx that is four-lobed and four concave, greenish-white or creamy white petals.

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The clusters appearing at the terminals usually comprise four or five blooms collectively. The shape of the rose apple fruit varies from almost round, somewhat pear-shaped or oval and measures anything between 1 1/ 2 inches to 2 inches (4 cm to 5 cm) in length. The fruits have a very thin, whitish or light yellow skin, which may be pink-blushed at times. Underneath the skin, there lies a crunchy, grainy, dry or succulent layer of yellow-hued flesh. Rose apple fruits have a sweet flavour and their fragrance reminds one of that of rose. This tree is a member of the plant family Myrtaceae.

Rose apple or Syzygium jambos is indigenous to Malaya and the East Indies. Over the years, this tree has been naturalized and cultivated in India, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), erstwhile Indochina as well as the Pacific Islands. In 1762, rose apple was brought to Jamaica and over the years the species was distributed to various areas, including the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the West Indies. It is also grown in the areas stretching from southern Mexico to Peru in regions having low or moderate elevations. In Guatemala, people often use the rose apple trees in the form of a growing fencepost or in hedgerows encompassing their coffee plantations. When grown for this purpose, people prune the rose apple trees drastically so that it encourages thick growth. In places like Panama, Guatemala, Virgin Islands and Honduras rose apple trees are found growing in abundance in the wild, often forming solid thickets and stands.

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The history of rose apple's arrival in the United States is well documented. Way back in 1825, a ship carried eight young rose apple trees from Rio de Janeiro to Hawaii and later, in 1853, a warship belonging to the United States sailed from Central America carrying rose apple and avocado trees for the Hilo Island. Gradually, the rose apple trees were introduced and became naturalized on various islands in the region - such as Oahu, Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Molokai. By the time it was 1893, there were reports that the trees were already being cultivated in several regions of Ghana. Rose apple is partially naturalized in some regions of West Africa having tropical climatic conditions as well as the islands of Pemba, Zanzibar and Reunion. There is a general belief that this plant was grown in Queensland in Australia for the first time in 1896. Interestingly, a rose apple tree that was acquired from a nursery in Italy eventually flourished as well as produced fruits in Israel's coastal plain. However, people in Israel do not grow rose apple trees for their fruits, but in the form of an ornamental plant.

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Prior to 1877, the rose apple tree was brought to Jacksonville in Florida. However, the southern and central parts of the state are more suited for growing this tree. In California too people grow rose apple trees for their ornamental foliage as well as flowers and are grown extensively as far as San Francisco in the north. In recent times, people in Florida have not planted rose apple as these trees occupy a lot of space and their fruits are also of little value to people here. However, the region still has a large number of rose apple trees that were planted earlier.

Parts used

Fruit, flowers, seeds, bark.

Uses

Rose apple is employed both in the form of a fruit as well as a medication. However, before using rose apple for therapeutic purposes, it is important to consult a physician or healthcare professional.

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It has been found that rose apple possesses the aptitude to put off prostate cancer development. By and large, physicians recommend men with an average propensity to develop prostate cancer to undertake alternative therapeutic means that would be helpful for their general health, provided they are contemplating to avoid developing this form of cancer. There is some evidence that opting for a nourishing diet that contains less amounts of fat and is, at the same time, loaded with fruits and vegetables may perhaps decrease the risks of developing prostate cancer.

Generally, rose apple is packed with vitamin C and dietary fiber - a substance that has established itself as a something that can lower the blood cholesterol levels.

Consumption of rose apple has a positive impact on our pancreas and is especially beneficial for people with diabetes. In fact, this fruit works to hinder the conversion of starch into sugar. Rose apple seeds contain a form of glucose that is known as jamboline. The seeds of this fruit can be dried out and pulverized into a powdered form, which can be mixed with water and taken thrice or four times daily to reduce the sugar content in urine.

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Rose apple fruit is considered to be a brain tonic. In addition, it also stimulates the liver. An infusion prepared from the rose apple fruit works as a diuretic, while syrup prepared with the flowers of rose apple works to reduce fever. A decoction prepared with the leaves is employed to treat sore eyes. It also works as an excellent diuretic. The decoction is also used in the form of an expectorant; it is also an excellent cure to treat rheumatism. The juice obtained by macerate rose apple leaves is taken internally in the form of a febrifuge. The leaves can be dried and powdered for topical application on the body when one is suffering from smallpox. This creates a cooling effect providing relief to the patient.

The decoction prepared from rose apple leaves is also applied topically to tender eyes and it also works as an expectorant and diuretic. The seeds of rose apple fruits are used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, and catarrh. Some people claim that an infusion prepared with the roasted pulverized seeds is useful for people suffering from diabetes. The seeds of this fruit also possess anesthetic attributes. The decoction prepared from the seed powder also helps to provide relief from bronchitis, asthma and hoarseness.

Rose apple fruits are loaded with vitamin C and they can be consumed raw or used to prepare a variety of regional recipes. People in the South-East Asian nations often serve rose apple fruits after spicing them with sugar.

As the wood of rose apple trees is compact, it is extensively used for making charcoal. Rose apple trees are loaded with varying amounts of tannins and, hence, are sometimes used in the form of antimicrobial agents. In some regions, people also use specific parts of the tree in their traditional medications.

In India, people consider the rose apple fruit to be an excellent tonic/ stimulant for the brain as well as the liver. A distillation of the rose apple fruit is used in the form of a diuretic. On the other hand, a sugary preparation with the flowers of rose apple is believed to bring down fevers. People in Nicaragua claim that an infusion prepared from the roasted, pulverized seeds of rose apple is useful for diabetic patients.

In Cuba, the root of rose apple is considered to be effective for treating epilepsy.

However, here is a word of caution. Medical research has shown that the seeds as well as the roots of rose apple are poisonous for humans. Therefore, it is advised that when using these parts for therapeutic purposes, one should exercise great caution.

Culinary uses

Many children living in places having tropical climates and where rose apple trees are grown generally eat the fruit out of hand. In most places, these fruits are seldom sold in markets. Some people stew the rose apple fruits with sugar and serve the preparation in the form of a dessert. In fact, people have undertaken various culinary experiments with these cuplike halved fruits and devised newer preparations. Some people stuff the rose apples with a mixture of rice and minced meat; cover the stuffing with some tomato sauce that is spiced with garlic and bake them for roughly 20 minutes. The variations that are possible are actually infinite.

Some people also use the fruit to prepare jelly or jam by adding some lemon juice. Others may also preserve rose apple in other fruit combinations, using fruits having more distinct flavours. Often rose apple fruits are also used to make syrups that are used in the form of a sauce or used to add essence to cold drinks. People in Jamaica used the sliced or halved fruits to make candies by stewing them in extremely sugary syrup and some cinnamon.

You should know that rose apples get bruised very easily and are extremely perishable fruits. It is best to pick them and eat them fresh when they are crispy. When rose apples are cooked with puddings or custards, they give out a flavours that is akin to that of rose. In fact, some people even candy the flowers of rose apple tree.

Habitat and cultivation

Rose apple trees only thrive in places having tropical climates or climatic conditions very close to that of the tropics. In Jamaica, rose apple trees have naturalized in areas ranging from the sea level to altitudes of about 3,000 feet (915 meters), while the plant is cultivated in regions ranging from the sea level to an altitude of about 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) in Hawaii. In India, the trees have been naturalized in areas from the sea level up to an altitude of about 4,400 feet (1,350 meters). On the other hand, in Ecuador, rose apple trees have been naturalized up to elevations of approximately 7,500 feet (2,300 meters). Rose apple trees also grow in places at great altitudes in California, but the trees will not bear fruits when grown in such places.

In India, rose apple trees flourish best when grown along the banks of streams and canals, but can also endure partially arid conditions. However, the trees cannot withstand long-drawn-out dry spells and such conditions may prove to be harmful for them. At the same time, it is believed that these trees grow best in deep, loamy soils. But there are no such precise requirements, as these trees also thrive well on limestone and sand having very little organic substances.

Rose apple trees are usually propagated by their seeds. The seeds of rose apple are polyembryonic, meaning they produce more that one sprout - usually up to three. However, all the seedlings are not homogeneous in behaviour or character. Growers in India have undertaken vegetative propagation of apple rose with the objective of raising a homogenous crop, and selecting as well as sustaining the dwarf varieties. While propagating plants using cuttings, growers found that hardwood of the plant does not develop roots even after applying chemical growth stimulators. At the same time, it was found that the air-layers did not develop roots during the rainy season. When budding experiments were undertaken, it was found the "T" buds or chips could not be obtained.

On the contrary, undertaking veneer grafting with spring-flush shoots in July on rootstocks that were one-year-old proved to be good enough in 31 percent plants. In the Indian state of West Bengal, growers generally undertake air-layering in July and these layers are planted during October and November. Usually, plants propagated by such vegetative means begin to produce fruits in four years. Occasionally, rose apples are inarched onto their individual seedlings. In other words, the grafting is done by uniting stock and scion of rose apple while both are continuing their independent growth.

Constituents

Bark and leaves contain:

Fruits contain:

Essential oil of leaves contains:

Side effects and cautions

It is said that the seeds of rose apple fruits are toxic for humans. The leaves, stems and roots of rose apple also contain an unspecified quantity of hydrochloric acid. In addition, it has been found that the bark of the tree as well as the roots of rose apple contain an alkaloid known as jambosine. This alkaloid is considered to be poisonous too.

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