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Publication #ENH-784

Terminalia catappa: Tropical-Almond1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

Tropical-Almond is a 30 to 55-foot-tall, deciduous tree which forms a symmetrical, upright silhouette in youth with horizontal branches reaching 35 feet in width. The branches are arranged in obvious tiers, giving the tree a pagoda-like shape. As the tree grows older, the crown spreads and flattens on the top to form a wide-spreading vase shape. The large, 12-inch-long and six-inch-wide, glossy green, leathery leaves change to beautiful shades of red, yellow, and purple before dropping in winter. Due to their large size, these old leaves may be considered a nuisance to some people. The leaves are quickly replaced by new growth so the tree is bare for only a short period of time. The inconspicuous, greenish-white, springtime blossoms appear in six-inch-long terminal clusters and are followed by the edible fruits. These drupes are 2.5 inches long and mature from green to yellow or red during the summer. The outside husk is corky fiber with an inner thin green flesh. The inside holds the edible, almond-like kernel. The fruit is high in tannic acid and this could stain cars, pavement and sidewalks. It also causes significant litter on the ground.

Figure 1. 

Mature Terminalia catappa: Tropical-Almond


Credit:

R.A. Howard US National Herbarium, Department of Botany, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Terminalia catappa
Pronunciation: ter-mih-NAIL-ee-uh kuh-TAP-uh
Common name(s): Tropical-Almond, India-Almond
Family: Combretaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)
Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: According to the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008), Terminalia catappa should be treated with caution in the south zone in Florida, may be recommended but managed to prevent escape. It is not considered a problem species and may be recommended in the north and central zone in Florida (counties listed by zone at: http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/assessment/pdfs/assess_counties.pdf)
Uses: shade; highway median; specimen; street without sidewalk; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100–200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft
Availability: not native to North America

Description

Height: 30 to 45 feet
Spread: 35 to 50 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: pyramidal, spreading
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: obovate
Leaf venation: brachidodrome, pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: red
Fall characteristic: showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: green
Flower characteristics: not showy

Figure 4. 

Flower.


Credit:

R.A. Howard. ©Smithsonian Institution. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Richard A. Howard Photograph Collection. Bahamas, Exuma


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval, elongated
Fruit length: 1 to 3 inches
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: tan
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: susceptible to breakage
Current year twig color: green, brown
Current year twig thickness: thick, very thick
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: high

Other

Roots: can form large surface roots
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

The tree may be best suited for planting along the coast as a park or shade tree providing dense shade. People may object to the large leaves and the fruit that falls from the tree if the tree is used as a street tree, and the tannic acid may be a problem near parked cars. Branches droop and require regular maintenance to keep them pruned to allow for vehicle clearance beneath the canopy. However, it would make a nice tree for a median or along a boulevard where this would cause less of a nuisance.

Tropical-Almond should be grown in full sun on any well-drained soil. Plants are quite tolerant of wind, salt, and drought but do need protection from freezing temperatures. Trees perform best if mulched and regularly fertilized.

Propagation is by seed.

Pests

Thrips are a pest of this tree.

Diseases

Leaf spot disease is a problem with this tree.

Literature Cited

Fox, A.M., D.R. Gordon, J.A. Dusky, L. Tyson, and R.K. Stocker. 2008. IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Status Assessment. Cited from the Internet (November 16, 2012), http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/assessment/pdfs/status_assessment.pdf

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH-784, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised February 2013. Reviewed June 2016. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.