In the Arboretum Today
The cherimoya is one of the most esteemed fruits in the Annonaceae family. It has been classed as one of the most delicious fruits, along with the pineapple and mangosteen. The tree is indigenous to the valleys of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, Perú, Colombia and Bolivia. The cherimoya was first planted in California in 1871, and after two generations the trees died and then were reintroduced. The cycle was
repeated several times. By 1936 about 9,000 trees were growing in California, only to be frozen by the severe freeze in 1937. Nowadays the trees planted in California are doing well. Very few of these trees are in commercial orchards. They do not do well in Florida where the climate is too humid.
The flowers are fragrant and produced on short stems. The fruits are somewhat heart-shaped, with a green skin and creamy white flesh with a pleasing aroma and delicious sub-acid flavor. they have large dark brown to black seeds. The outer skin may be smooth with fingerprint-like indentations or covered with conical or rounded bumps.
Growing in Southern California, the tree requires hand pollination because the male and female structures of the flowers do not mature at the same time. In the native Andes areas there are insects that carry the pollen.
Seeds of the cherimoya can be crushed and used as an insecticide, for they contain alkaloids. In Jamaica the dried flowers have been used as flavoring for snuff.
Cherimoyas are widely grown from seed to produce the rootstock where the desired type of cherimoya is grafted. Seedlings produce inferior fruits. Pruning is advisable to prevent rupture of the branches. The fruit grows in the underside of the tree.
There are two cherimoya trees in the grove here at the Fullerton Arboretum, a Pierce and an Ott. The Ott tree, developed by Wm. Ott from La Habra, California, is probably the oldest Ott tree in existence. It was here on the grounds when the Arboretum was established. The original tree (introduced in 1940) was in La Habra Heights and was replaced by a swimming pool
Do not be alarmed if you find this tree with yellowed leaves falling from it in early spring. Remember, it is a South American tree, and there it is Fall. The tree has never adapted to our seasons.