Syzygium samarangense: Wax apple

Family: Myrtaceae
Common name: Wax apple, Water apple, Java apple, Rose apple, Wax jambu, Chambakka, Mountain apple, Cloud apple, Jambu air

A beautiful tree very commonly seen in South India, especially in Kerala, Wax apple trees are favorites among children. The big, juicy, bell-shaped fruits ripen during summer and provides good nutrition and hydration for children during the hot summer months. Wax apple trees grow to a height of 12-15 meters with broad leathery leaves that grow directly on the stem, without any stalk.

Leaves are 15-25 centimeters long and opposite. Flowers are very beautiful, with 4 petals and numerous tuft-like stamens giving the flower a powder-puff-like appearance. The flowers including the stamens, can be eaten raw and have a slightly tangy taste.

Flowers develop in bunches of 3 to 20 at the tips of the stems, though they can also develop at different places along the stem of the tree. Wax apple trees branch well, very close to the roots, giving it a bushy rounded crown.

Fruits range in color from creamish white, light green, green, pink, red, purple and even black depending on the species. The taste of the fruits also vary depending on the species ranging from very tangy, to mild and watery. Ripe fruits have a thin but waxy skin which protects the fruit from insects and pests, and gives it the name wax apple. The flesh is spongy with a cotton-candy-like center which contains 2-4 seeds.

The fruits have have a small cavity which houses the soft, round seeds. Seeds are white initially, turning dark brown when dried. The upper part of the fruit has 4 calyxes giving it a beautiful shape and pattern. Bunches of wax apples hanging like decorations from the tree is a lovely sight.

Wax apples are rich in Vitamin C and fibers, and is used to treat a variety of health conditions like constipation, cholesterol, blood pressure, seizures, kidney stones, indigestion and liver diseases. Indian medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani gives high importance to this versatile fruit.

High water content of the wax apple makes them a good source of hydration, especially during the summer. Wax apples are good for diabetes patients because of their low sugar content. These fruits are used to make juices, pickles, wines and jams. Wax apples are also used in skin treatments because of their high Vitamin A and Vitamin C content.

Propagation is from seeds, and also through grafting. Mature trees produce over 500 fruits, and the seeds root readily making these trees easy to propagate.

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