The Soursop

by Gene Joyner, Extension Agent I

IFAS Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service

The soursop or guanabana, Annona muricata is the most tropical of all the annonas and is native to Tropical America. This small upright tree grows to about thirty feet in Florida and has alternate leaves which are tough and leathery, very dark shiny green and four to six inches in length. These have a very pungent odor when crushed. This is the easy way of identifying it from other types of annona relatives.

Trees grow well over a variety of soils, but occasionally can develop nutritional deficiencies in highly alkaline soils. Flowers are produced much of the year and the large yellowish flowers are quite unusual in their appearance. These are followed by fruits that may be up to eight to ten pounds or more which are covered with soft spines; the fruit is usually yellow-green in color.

At maturity the fruit is used for milk shakes, ice creams and other fresh uses, and the juice is also processed. The fruit has a white to off-white custard-like pulp containing large numbers of brownish-black seeds. The main fruit season for soursop in Florida is between June and November.

Soursop juice is found in many local supermarkets and can be used for flavoring sherbets, ice creams, or for additions to tropical fruit punches. Jelly and preserves can also be made from the pulp, but this is a lesser activity for most people compared to fresh eating.

Trees are very cold-sensitive and start to show cold damage at about 38¡F. Freeze damage will occur at about 30°F to mature trees, 32°F for young trees. Trees do well in sun or light shade, but heavy shade will cause reduction of fruit production. Trees grow about two to four feet a year under average conditions and should be fertilized three to four times a year with a citrus or fruit tree-type fertilizer.

Propagation of soursop is by seed or by grafting and budding. Airlayering has also been reported to be successful. Most commercial trees are budded or grafted to get desirable clones. From seed, soursops generally take two years to begin fruit production. Grafted trees generally start flowering the next season after being planted.

Trees generally are available at most nurseries that deal in tropical fruits, and there are a few named varieties available. Most people, however, still plant this from seeds; and seedlings, in most cases, produce acceptable fruit.

There are reported seedless varieties of soursop available which must be propagated by grafting, and a fiberless type which has a lighter silver-green foliage than the normal trees.


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