Custard apple, also known as sharifa or sitaphal, is a small deciduous tree belonging to the Annonaceae family. It is native to South America, the Caribbean, and parts of India. The tree has gained immense popularity in India for its sweet and creamy fruit. It is widely grown in tropical and subtropical regions of India, and is a major source of income for many farmers. In this article, we will discuss the physical characteristics, ecological role, importance to birds, animals and insects, states where it is found naturally and commercially grown, different stages of tree growth, and benefits to farmers.
|Common Name||Custard Apple|
|Scientific Name||Annona squamosa|
|Maximum Height||Up to 10 meters (33 feet)|
|Diameter||Up to 8 meters (26 feet) when mature|
|Years to Grow||Up to 3 years|
|Economic Benefit||Provides a valuable fruit crop for farmers and is used in traditional medicine.|
Custard apple tree is a small, bushy, and deciduous tree, growing up to 10-20 feet in height. The trunk is short and irregular, and the branches spread wide. The leaves are large, simple, and oblong, with a glossy green surface. The flowers are fragrant and are borne on the trunk and main branches. The fruit is a large, round or heart-shaped, with a green or brownish-green scaly skin. The flesh is creamy white, with a sweet and musky flavor, and black shiny seeds.
Custard apple tree plays a vital ecological role in its natural habitat. The tree provides shelter and food for various insects, birds, and animals. It is also used in traditional medicine for its medicinal properties.
Importance to Birds, Animals, and Insects
The fruit of the custard apple tree is a rich source of food for many birds, animals, and insects. Birds like barbets, parrots, and mynas feed on the fruit and disperse the seeds through their droppings. Insects like bees and butterflies visit the flowers for nectar and pollination.
States in India where the tree is found naturally
Custard apple is found naturally in the tropical and subtropical regions of India. It is grown in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.
States where it is commercially grown
Custard apple is commercially grown in many states in India, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.
Commercial Growing of Tree
The custard apple tree is easy to grow and requires a warm and humid climate. It can be propagated by seeds, grafting, or budding. The tree grows well in well-drained soils with a pH range of 6-7.5. The trees can be grown in home gardens or as intercrops in agroforestry systems.
Different Stages of Tree Growth
The custard apple tree goes through several stages of growth, from seedling to maturity. The seedlings require proper care and attention, and should be planted in well-drained soil. The tree starts bearing fruit after three to four years of planting. The fruit takes around 4-5 months to mature after pollination.
How Farmers are Benefited
Custard apple is an ideal tree for agroforestry, as it provides multiple benefits to farmers. It is a source of income for small farmers and can be intercropped with other crops like vegetables and cereals. The tree also helps in soil conservation, water conservation, and biodiversity conservation. Moreover, the fruit is highly nutritious and can be consumed fresh or processed into jams, jellies, and desserts, thus adding value to the produce.
Custard apple fruit is harvested when it is mature, which is indicated by a change in color and the softness of the fruit. The fruit is harvested by hand or with the help of a pole. As the tree matures, it begins to produce fruit, which typically takes about 3-4 years after planting. The fruit of the custard apple tree is a green or yellowish-green fruit with a bumpy, irregular surface. The fruit is usually round or heart-shaped, and can be up to 4-6 inches in diameter. The flesh of the fruit is creamy white in color, and is soft and pulpy. The seeds are black and shiny and are inedible.
The fruit of the custard apple tree is a popular ingredient in many Indian dishes, particularly desserts. It is also consumed as a fresh fruit and is used to make juice and milkshakes. Custard apple is also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
Custard apple is an important fruit tree in India, with many benefits for farmers and the environment. It is a high-value crop that can generate significant income for farmers, and growing custard apple trees under agroforestry can provide many benefits for the environment. Custard apple fruit is also delicious and has many culinary and medicinal uses. As such, it is an important crop that should be cultivated and conserved in India.