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Annona reticulata is a small deciduous or semi-evergreen tree in the Annonaceae family. It is often called the custard-apple, a name that is also applied to other members of the genus, most commonly A. squamosa, but also A. cherimola (also known as cherimoya). Other common names include wild-sweetsop, bullock's-heart, or ox-heart.

Custard-apple originated in the Caribbean and Central America, where it grows at altitudes from sea level to 1,500 meters (4,900 feet). It is cultivated and occasionally naturalized in tropical areas worldwide, including Florida in the U.S., Southeast Asia, Taiwan, India, Australia, and West Africa. It has been classified as invasive in Australia, French Polynesia, Guam, the Solomon Islands, and Singapore (PIER 2011, Randall 2007).

The custard-apple fruit, which is 10-15 x 7.5-12.5 cm and varies from heart-shaped to cylindrical or spherical, is beige to brownish red when ripe, and may weigh 1 kg or more. The flesh is white and creamy, and is used to make beverages, juice, and ice cream. It is thought to be inferior in texture and flavor to the sweetsop (A. squamosa) and cherimoya (A. cherimola), but flavor varies considerably across cultivars and individuals, and some fruits have a pleasantly sweet flavor. However, the plant is more vigorous than other annonas, has a lower ratio of seed and skin to pulp, and some types produce seedless fruits (FAO 1994, Flora of Pakistan 2011, NAS 1989). Although there are a number of cultivars, the fruit has not yet attained widespread commercial success.

Unripe fruit and leaves are anthelmintic (kills intestinal worms and parasites), and the seeds and leaves have insecticidal properties and may be toxic (Ecocrop 2011, Flora of Pakistan 2011). Various parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine: a poultice from crushed leaves is used to treat boils, abscesses and ulcers; dried unripe fruit and bark are used as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery. The bark is very astringent and the decoction is taken as a tonic and also as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery; root bark fragments may be placed on gums for toothaches; and a tea made from roots is used to treat fevers (Morton 1987). Related species have many traditional medicinal uses, for which custard-apple may also be applied (see A. muricata).


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