Evergreen tree up to 30m tall. Trunk often with small buttresses. Bark surface usually smooth with a pale brownish-grey hue. Leaves compound, arranged alternately along branches. Collections of flowers (inflorescences) male and female on different plants (dioecious), produced from leaf axils. Flowers sweet-smelling, greenish-white to greenish-yellow. Fruits yellowish-red, pear-shaped capsules that appear to have three lobes; splits into three to reveal glossy black seeds.

Facts

  • This is the national fruit of Jamaica, originally imported from West Africa, and is part of the national dish, akee and saltfish.
  • The genus name Blighia was given in honour of the Royal Navy officer Captain Bligh (he of 'Mutiny on the Bounty' fame), who brought akee fruits back to Britain.

Where it grows

Most common in the semi-deciduous forests of it native west and west-central tropical Africa. It is now cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, including Jamaica.

Common uses

The partial seed coverings (arils) may be consumed safely when the fruit becomes red and opens under the light of the sun. It can be cooked or consumed raw but when ingested unripe it produces vomiting and fatal cases of poisoning.

Wildlife facts

The akee is pollinated by flying insects such as bees.

Glossary

  • Capsule: dry fruit that opens by valves, slits or pores to release seeds (dehiscent) and is composed of two or more united carpels (the basic unit of the female sexual organ).

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