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Morton, J. 1987. Wood-Apple. p. 190–191. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.


Feronia limonia Swingle

Feronia elephantum Correa

Limonia acidissima L.

Schinus limonia L.

The wood-apple, Feronia limonia Swingle (syns. F. elephantum Correa; Limonia acidissima L.; Schinus limonia L.) is the only species of its genus, in the family Rutaceae. Besides wood-apple, it may be called elephant apple, monkey fruit, curd fruit, kath bel and other dialectal names in India. In Malaya it is gelinggai or belinggai; in Thailand, ma-khwit; in Cambodia, kramsang; in Laos, ma-fit. In French, it is pomme d' elephant, pomme de bois, or citron des mois.


The slow-growing tree is erect, with a few upward-reaching branches bending outward near the summit where they are subdivided into slender branchlets drooping at the tips. The bark is ridged, fissured and scaly and there are sharp spines :3/4 to 2 in (2-5 cm) long on some of the zigzag twigs. The deciduous, alternate leaves, 3 to 5 in (7.5-12.5 cm) long, dark-green, leathery, often minutely toothed, blunt or notched at the apex, are dotted with oil glands and slightly lemon-scented when crushed. Dull-red or greenish flowers to 1/2 in (1.25 cm) wide are borne in small, loose, terminal or lateral panicles. They are usually bisexual. The fruit is round to oval, 2 to 5 in (5-12.5 cm) wide, with a hard, woody, grayish-white, scurfy rind about 1/4 in (6 mm) thick. The pulp is brown, mealy, odorous, resinous, astringent, acid or sweetish, with numerous small, white seeds scattered through it.

Origin and Distribution

The wood-apple is native and common in the wild in dry plains of India and Ceylon and cultivated along roads and edges of fields and occasionally in orchards. It is also frequently grown throughout Southeast Asia, in northern Malaya and on Penang Island. In India, the fruit was traditionally a "poor man's food" until processing techniques were developed in the mid-1950's.


There are 2 forms, one with large, sweetish fruits; one with small, acid fruits.


The tree grows up to an elevation of 1,500 ft (450 m) in the western Himalayas. It is said to require a monsoon climate with a distinct dry season.


Throughout its range there is a diversity of soil types, but it is best adapted to light soils.


The wood-apple is generally grown from seeds though seedlings will not bear fruit until at least 15 years old. Multiplication may also be by root cuttings, air-layers, or by budding onto self-seedlings to induce dwarfing and precociousness.


In Malaya, the leaves are shed in January, flowering occurs in February and March, and the fruit matures in October and November. In India, the fruit ripens from early October through March.


The fruit is tested for maturity by dropping onto a hard surface from a height of 1 ft (30 cm). Immature fruits bounce, while mature fruits do not. After harvest, the fruit is kept in the sun for 2 weeks to fully ripen.

Food Uses

The rind must be cracked with a hammer. The scooped-out pulp, though sticky, is eaten raw with or without sugar, or is blended with coconut milk and palm-sugar sirup and drunk as a beverage, or frozen as an ice cream. It is also used in chutneys and for making jelly and jam. The jelly is purple and much like that made from black currants.

A bottled nectar is made by diluting the pulp with water, passing through a pulper to remove seeds and fiber, further diluting, straining, and pasteurizing. A clear juice for blending with other fruit juices, has been obtained by clarifying the nectar with Pectinol R-10. Pulp sweetened with sirup of cane or palm sugar, has been canned and sterilized. The pulp can be freeze-dried for future use but it has not been satisfactorily dried by other methods.

Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Pulp*
Pulp (ripe) Seeds
Moisture 74.0% 4.0%
Protein 8.00% 26.18%
Fat 1.45% 27%
Carbohydrates 7.45% 35.49%
Ash 5.0% 5.03%
Calcium 0.17% 1.58%
Phosphorus 0.08% 1.43%
Iron 0.07% 0.03%
Tannins 1.03% 0.08%
*According to analyses made in India.

The pulp represents 36% of the whole fruit. The pectin content of the pulp is 3 to 5% (16% yield on dry-weight basis). The seeds contain a bland, non-bitter, oil high in unsaturated fatty acids.

Other Uses

Pectin: The pectin has potential for multiple uses in pectin-short India, but it is reddish and requires purification.

Rind: The fruit shell is fashioned into snuffboxes and other small containers.

Gum: The trunk and branches exude a white, transparent gum especially following the rainy season. It is utilized as a substitute for, or adulterant of, gum arabic, and is also used in making artists' watercolors, ink, dyes and varnish. It consists of 35.5% arabinose and xylose, 42.7% d-galactose, and traces of rhamnose and glucuronic acid.

Wood: The wood is yellow-gray or whitish, hard, heavy, durable, and valued for construction, pattern-making, agricultural implements, rollers for mills, carving, rulers, and other products. It also serves as fuel.

The heartwood contains ursolic acid and a flavanone glycoside, 7-methylporiol-b-D-xylopyranosyl-D-glucopyranoside.

Medicinal Uses: The fruit is much used in India as a liver and cardiac tonic, and, when unripe, as an astringent means of halting diarrhea and dysentery and effective treatment for hiccough, sore throat and diseases of the gums. The pulp is poulticed onto bites and stings of venomous insects, as is the powdered rind.

Juice of young leaves is mixed with milk and sugar candy and given as a remedy for biliousness and intestinal troubles of children. The powdered gum, mixed with honey, is given to overcome dysentery and diarrhea in children.

Oil derived from the crushed leaves is applied on itch and the leaf decoction is given to children as an aid to digestion. Leaves, bark, roots and fruit pulp are all used against snakebite. The spines are crushed with those of other trees and an infusion taken as a remedy for menorrhagia. The bark is chewed with that of Barringtonia and applied on venomous wounds.

The unripe fruits contain 0.015% stigmasterol. Leaves contain stigmasterol (0.012%) and bergapten (0.01%). The bark contains 0.016% marmesin. Root bark contains aurapten, bergapten, isopimpinellin and other coumarins.