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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Starfruit Tree

By Staff | Sep 21, 2012

Plant Subject: Starfruit Tree (Averrhoa carambola)

First impression: Shimmery green to orangey yellow clumping, cascading, star-shaped edged, oblong fruit dripping from a small tree. The flowers can be seen simultaneously while fruiting, are dainty pink-throated magenta petals attached with bright red stalks. How can these tiny- tiny flowers transform into this celebrative shape fruit? Magic! Just sprinkle some twinkle in your toes and come see Starfruit adorning our tree at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: I discover our star hails from Indonesia and our warm, humid summers are perfect for its good health and development. It is an evergreen tree, which does well in full sun to partial shade. Our tree is about 20 feet tall but can reach 30 feet high. It has a natural shape, slow growing with textured, dappled gray, trunk and limbs. The spirally arranged leaves are quite lucent and appear glowing green. They do a great job of hiding the treasured fruit with their dense arrangement. You really don’t notice the fruit until you stand directly under the canopy. The immature star shaped fruit are light green and blend with the leaves. We try to select the ripe ones, which are glowing bright orange. If you pick a green one, chances are it will not ripen off the tree. Once they begin to ripen-look up, luminescent orange star fruit everywhere and lots of it. We utilize a hand held fruit picker to reach the fruit. It has a long extendable pole with a wire basket on one end. The basket is deep with a small claw around its edge to aid in trapping any fruit. We are fortunate to have Starfruit in varying stages of maturity about 9 months out of the year. Its taste reminds me of a waxy, mildly sweet combo of apple, pineapple, and kiwi fruit. How do you eat a Starfruit? First you wash it real good, and then you slice it horizontally starting at one end on to the other end. Wha-laa – An orange STAR! Pretty and decorative is why Starfruit is so popular to adorn your centerpieces, punch bowls and party platters. Interesting tidbit, the fruit is sweeter when you let the edges start to turn brown — who knew?

Pros: Unique exotic fruit – Likes full sun – Attractive when fruiting or non fruiting – Insect damage minimal – Easy to maintain/prune May get the urge to throw more parties – Drought tolerant Earn some extra pocket money selling fruit – Compact tree for a small space Non invasive – Lots and lots of fruit – Even if you don’t like the taste everyone enjoys the shape of the fruit.

Cons: Daily clean up oodles of fruit after windy day – Non Native Neighbors may be stealing fruit when you’re not looking – Low salt tolerance – Slow grower – 3-5 years to bear fruit

Conclusion: Starfruit is a party waiting to happen. The best place for any Starfruit is on your party platter; well it also looks good on this gorgeous tree. You got to see, this fruit tree dripping constellations of celestial orange in our paradise garden.

Don’t wanna miss this fruiter!