Index | Search | Home | Morton

Morton, J. 1987. Biriba. p. 88–90. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.


Rollinia mucosa

Of the approximately 65 species of the genus Rollinia (family Annonaceae), only a few have edible fruit and the best-known is the biriba, R. mucosa Baill. (syns. R. orthopetala A. DC.; Annona mucosa Jacq.; A. sieberi A. DC.; and possibly R. deliciosa Safford?). The popular Brazilian name has been widely adopted, but in that country it may also be called biriba de Pernambuco, fruta da condessa, jaca de pobre, araticu, araticum, araticum pitaya. In Peru, it is anon; in Ecuador, chirimoya; in Colombia, mulato; in Venezuela, rinon or rinon de monte; in Mexico, anona babosa or zambo. In Trinidad it is called wild sugar apple; in Guadeloupe, cachiman morveux, cachiman cochon or cachiman montagne, in Puerto Rico, cachiman or anon cimarron, in the Dominican Republic, candongo or anona.

The biriba
Fig. 26: The biriba (Rollinia mucosa) is an attractive light-yellow at first.


This fast-growing tree ranges from 13 to 50 ft (4-15 m) in height; has brown, hairy twigs and alternate, deciduous, oblong-elliptic or ovate-oblong leaves, pointed at the apex, rounded at the base, 4 to 10 in (10-25 cm) long, thin but somewhat leathery and hairy on the underside. The flowers, borne 1 to 3 or occasionally more together in the leaf axils, are hermaphroditic, 3/4 to 1 3/8 in (23.5 cm) wide; triangular, with 3 hairy sepals, 3 large, fleshy outer petals with upturned or horizontal wings, and 3 rudimentary inner petals. The fruit is conical to heart-shaped, or oblate; to 6 in (15 cm) in diameter; the rind yellow and composed of more or less hexagonal, conical segments, each tipped with a wart-like protrusion; nearly 1/8 in (3 mm) thick, leathery, tough and indehiscent. The pulp is white, mucilaginous, translucent, juicy, subacid to sweet. There is a slender, opaque-white core and numerous dark-brown, elliptic or obovate seeds 5/8 to 3/4 in (1.6-2 cm) long.

Origin and Distribution

This species has an extensive natural range, from Peru and northern Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil and northward to Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia and southern Mexico; Trinidad, the Lesser Antilles including Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Vincent; and Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. It is much cultivated around Iquitos, Peru, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the fruits are marketed in abundance. It is the favorite fruit in western Amazonia.

Seeds were first introduced into the United States from Para, Brazil, by O.W. Barrett in 1908 (S.P.I. #22512); a second time from Parain 1910 (S.P.I. #27579) and again in 1912 (S.P.I. #27609). The United States Department of Agriculture received seeds from Rio de Janeiro in 1914 (S.P.I. #38171). P.J. Wester may have taken seeds to the Philippines where the species first fruited in 1915. Seedlings were distributed to pioneers in southern Florida but only a very few trees exist here today.


The only named selection referred to in the literature is 'Regnard' reported by P.J. Wester in 1917 as the best variety introduced into the Philippines. A form in the western Amazon region has very pronounced points; weighs up to 8.8 lbs (4 kg).


Brazilian scientists have found that 4 species of beetles of the family Chrysomelidae pollinate the flowers, but only 32% of the blooms set fruit. Fruiting begins 55 days after the onset of flowering.

Climate and Soil

The biriba is limited to warm lowlands, from 20º north to 30º south latitudes in tropical America. In Puerto Rico, it occurs at elevations between 500 and 2,000 ft (150-600 m). It has succumbed to temperature drops to 26.5ºF (-3.10ºC) in southern Florida. In Brazil, the tree grows naturally in low areas along the Amazon subject to periodic flooding and it was expected to do well in the Florida Everglades. In the Philippines it is said to flourish where the rainfall is equally distributed throughout the year. Calcareous soils do not seem to be unsuitable in Florida or Puerto Rico as long as they are moist.

Handling causes the conical projections on the fruit to turn black.
Fig. 27: Handling causes the conical projections on the fruit to turn black.

Season and Harvesting

In Amazonia, the tree may flower and fruit off and on during the year but the fruits are most abundant from January to June. The fruits ripen in February and March in Rio de Janeiro. In Florida, fruits have matured in November and December. In South America, the fruit is picked when still green and hard in order to transport it intact to urban markets where it gradually turns yellow and soft. When the fruit is fully ripe, handling causes the wart-like protuberances on the rind to turn brown or near-black, rendering it unattractive.

Pests and Diseases

The most important pests in Brazil are the larvae of Cerconota anonella (Lepidopterae) which attack fruits in the process of maturing. The borer, Cratosomus bombina, penetrates the bark and trunk. A stinging caterpillar, Sabine sp., feeds on the leaves. A white fly, Aleurodicus cocois, attacks foliage of young and adult plants. Pseudococcus brevipes and Aspidiotus destructor are found on the leaves and sometimes on the fruits. Black spots on the leaves are caused by the fungus Cercospora anonae. Glomerella cingulata causes dieback and fruit rot in Florida.

Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*

Calories 80
Moisture 77.2 g
Protein 2.8 g
Lipids 0.2 g
Glycerides l9.1 g
Fiber 1.3 g
Ash 0.7 g
Calcium 24 mg
Phosphorus 26 mg
Iron 1.2 mg
Vitamin B1 0.04 mg
Vitamin B2 0.04 mg
Niacin 0.5 mg
Ascorbic Acid 33.0 mg
Amino Acids (mg per g of Nitrogen (N = 6.25):
Lysine 316 mg
Methionine 178 mg
Threonine 219 mg
Tryptophan 57 mg
*According to Brazilian analyses.

Food Uses

The fruit is eaten fresh and is fermented to make wine in Brazil.

Other Uses

The wood of the tree is yellow, hard, heavy, strong and is used for ribs for canoes, boat masts, boards and boxes.

Medicinal Uses: The fruit is regarded as refrigerant, analeptic and antiscorbutic. The powdered seeds are said to be a remedy for enterocolitis.