The Madrono

by Gene Joyner, Extension Agent I

IFAS Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service

If you're looking for a medium-sized tree that has a somewhat different fruit, try growing the madrono Rheedia madruno. This tree has sharply pointed leathery leaves, four to six inches long, dark green above and somewhat lighter green on the undersurface. Native to the wet forests of Panama and southern Mexico, this tree is somewhat slow growing, but will reach a height of thirty feet or more at maturity.

Fruits are produced during the warm season and are usually one to two inches in length, and somewhat oval in shape. The fruit skin is yellow, warty and somewhat brittle. Inside is a white pulp surrounding several large seeds, and the pulp has a pleasant aromatic sub-acid flavor.

In addition to being eaten as a fresh fruit it makes an excellent jam. One word of caution, though: do not pick fruits prior to maturity. If picked prior to maturity, fruits are generally very acid, and once picked no further ripening occurs in the fruit.

This tree has a fair amount of salt tolerance and makes an excellent ornamental, even if you're not going to grow it for its fruit. Most trees can withstand average winter conditions, but hard freezes may damage leaves and small twigs.

The madrono is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, but sometimes has micronutrient deficiencies in high-pH soils, requiring the use of nutritional sprays. Trees have few if any pest problems and once established have very low needs for maintenance. Seedling trees grow very quickly for the first two to three years and then growth rates improve.

It makes a nice specimen container plant for a porch, patio, or pool area when young, and can be kept as a potted plant for many years before growing large enough to be planted in the ground.

Madrono trees are difficult to locate at area tropical fruit nurseries, but fruiting specimens can be found throughout South Florida.


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