In the central American regions of Mexico and Panama a member of the Annona genus can easily be found, the Soncoya tree (Annona purpurea), its other name being ilama. Included in the Annona family of flowering plants are Pawpaw tree, Sugar apple, and Custard Apple, too. All of them feature a sphere-like fruit with bumpy scaled skin that is a traditional fruit throughout Central America and parts of South America. The fruit of the Soncoya, which ripens in late Summer, has also been used in traditional medicine. The fruit tastes much like Mango with rough green-brown spikes instead of scales. However, it has a rather bland flavor so its not as popular as some other Annona fruits for consumption.
The conditions the trees thrive in are, of course, tropical and cannot tolerate frost. It has a height of up to 35 feet and the bark is a slender scaly. The leaves are like nature’s brand of pliable leather. In Central America, especially Mexico, its commonly found growing wild on the foothills and can’t be found in elevations above 2000 feet. Though in some other regions it can be found at higher elevations. Generally all these regions share a common thread in having a long dry season that ends in heavy rainfalls. They spread by seeds alone though grafting can be can option with the domesticated trees.
Around 1000 BC the people of Central America first started to cultivate the tree. Cultivating the tree requires it to be properly maintained in the first place, which isn’t difficult as long as the Soncoya is growing in its native habitat. The people of Mexico wait until the fruit is cracking to pick it. It must not be picked before this as the fruit doesn’t ripen. Even when it is picked at the right time it can take up to three or more days to ripen. As a domesticated tree it is irrigated frequently. The soil needs to be kept moist and the environment humid. It can lose its leaves in semi-tropical places but they always come back. It has a taproot system that comes in great handy in the tropics.
As for its nutrient content, vitamin C, B and fiber can be found in these plants despite their rather scant flesh. Their relatives, Custard Apple, actually have more nutrients and more fleshy fruit so thats why this plant is usually grown in gardens and greenhouses for show instead of to eat. The native landscape of the Soncoya is tropical with a bit of scrub-land and coniferous forest thrown in the mix. Actually coniferous forest are common in the Mexican foothills with the Soncoya being a distant relation of these conifers. This plant can grow well both in the wild and in a greenhouse.