Species Author: L.
Vernacular: Soursop, Guanabana, Prickly Custard Apple, Sausab - Palauan [MB 4429], Sei - Pohnpeian [Amor 215]
Soursop trees are bushy and low, only about 7.5-9 m tall. Young branchlets are rusty-hairy. The smooth, glossy, dark green leaves are oblong to elliptical and pointed at both ends, 6.25-20 x 2.5-6.25 cm wide. The underside of the leaves is somewhat lighter than the top. Solitary flowers emerge anywhere on the trunk, branches or twigs. They are 4-5 cm long, and cone shaped, the 3 fleshy outer petals are yellow-green, the 3 inner petals are pale-yellow.
The fruit looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. It is more or less oval or heart-shaped, though it tends to be lopsided or curved. The fruit is fairly variable in size, ranging from 10-30 cm long and up to 15 cm in width. They can weigh as much as 6.8 kg. The fruit is covered with a leathery-appearing, inedible, bitter skin which is covered with many flexible spikes. The skin is dark-green in the immature fruit, becoming slightly yellowish-green before the mature fruit is soft to the touch. The inside of the skin is cream-colored and granular. The white flesh, which is the edible part of the flesh is fibrous and juicy, and separates easily from the rind. The pulp smells a little like a pineapple, but the sweet, acrid flavor is unique and somewhat indescribable. The fruit is segmented, with some segments containing a single oval, smooth, hard, black seed, 1.25-2 cm long. A large fruit may contain from a few dozen to 200 or more seeds.
Ground seeds and leaf decoctions are used against head lice, and as pesticides. The juice of the ripe fruit is said to be diuretic. Taken when fasting, it is believed to relieve liver ailments and leprosy. Pulverized immature fruits, which are very astringent, are decocted as a dysentery remedy. To draw out chiggers and speed healing, the flesh of an acid soursop is applied as a poultice unchanged for 3 days. In parts of Carribean the leave are believed to have a relaxing, even sobering effect. In Africa, it is given to children with fever and they are also bathed lightly with it. A decoction of the young shoots or leaves is regarded in the West Indies as a remedy for gall bladder trouble, as well as coughs, catarrh, diarrhea, dysentery and indigestion; is said to "cool the blood," and to be able to stop vomiting and aid delivery in childbirth. Mashed leaves are used as a poultice to alleviate eczema and other skin afflictions and rheumatism, and the sap of young leaves is put on skin eruptions. The roots of the tree are employed as a vermifuge and the root bark as an antidote for poisoning. A tincture of the powdered seeds and bay rum is a strong emetic.
The juice from the seeds are poisonous and irritating and should be avoided. Research carried out in the Caribbean has established a connection between consumption of soursop and atypical forms of Parkinson's disease due to the very high concentration of Annonacin. (www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/soursop.html)
The wood is light and not very durable. It has been used in Colombia for pipestems and barrelstaves.
The soursop probably originated in the West Indies and in northern South America. Wild and cultivated species are found from sea-level to an altitude of 1,150 m throughout the West Indies and from southern Mexico to Peru and Argentina. It is widely distributed from southeastern China to Australia, SE Asia, the warm lowlands of eastern and western Africa, and throughout the pacific.
The soursop is one of the most abundant fruits in the Dominican Republic and one of the most popular in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Colombia and northeastern Brazil.
There are many varieties of soursop cultivated throughout its range. Generally varieties are selected for sweetness, acidity, and pulp texture. Soursops are eaten straight from the tree, can be juiced, are popular as flavorings in ices and popsicles, and are occasionally made into a custard with sugar and milk.
We currently have 19 herbarium specimens for Annona muricata in our collection. Click on any specimen below to view the herbarium sheet data.
- 043313 - collected by Michael Evans in 1966
- 001451 - collected by Tim Flynn in 1986
- 001450 - collected by David H. Lorence in 1988
- 003311 - collected by Art Whistler in 1989
- 043604 - collected by A. Raynor in 2001
- 048968 - collected by A. Dores in 2002
- 039355 - collected by David H. Lorence in 2003
- 039611 - collected by David H. Lorence in 2003
- 039615 - collected by David H. Lorence in 2003
- 043751 - collected by E. Albert Amor in 2004
- 043696 - collected by Francisca Sohl in 2004
- 044279 - collected by Tim Flynn in 2005
- 054905 - collected by P. Emos Eperiam in 2006
- 054512 - collected by P. Emos Eperiam in 2006
- 048152 - collected by Michael J. Balick in 2007
- 081764 - collected by David E. Brussell in 2008
- 067660 - collected by David H. Lorence in 2013
- 081137 - collected by J. Soelberg in 2014
- Unassigned - collected by David H. Lorence in 2021