Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers

Fruit Tree Repository Guide

Ken Love 

This publication will give a brief introduction to all the fruit trees planted in four locations across Hawaii in order to provide germplasm for future fruit growers. The different species planted in Honaunau Kona, Honomu north of Hilo, Molokai and at the National Tropical Botanic Garden on Kauai represent potential income for those growers wishing to increase diversity and work towards establishing new varieties and new crops in Hawaii’s market place.

 Growing fruit trees in Hawaii presents a number of challenges, as every location, on each island, has a different microclimate. This makes it extremely difficult to offer generic guidelines for growing the same tree on each island at different elevations and with different soils. Planting, fertilizing, irrigation and general horticultural practices are very different.   In some cases, specific fruit trees like figs will require morning irrigation as in Kona but not in Hilo. 

Figs are a good example to use, as they were the number one fruit tree that growers wanted to plant in a 2015 survey.  Fig cuttings from the same tree will often take on different characteristics when planted at different elevations or in different locations.

 In short, there are no simple answers to the same question when asked on different islands or at different locations on the same island. Perhaps the best advice is to find and meet growers in your area with the tree you are interested in or attend chapter meetings of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) to seek answers.

 With that said, here are a few general guidelines covering a range of information that growers would need for a specific tree.  This also includes Internet links to fruit listed on the HTFG and University of Hawaii websites.  Not all of these fruit trees are found in nurseries or even on all the other islands. Again, its best to contact your local HTFG chapter or extension agent for help finding and growing the trees your looking for.


Acerola (Malpighia emarginata)

Also known as Barbados cherry, the fruit is celebrated for its extremely high vitamin C values, up to 47 times that of the orange. Juice is produced throughout the Caribbean from the small red fruit from a large shrub like tree that grows to about 20 feet (6m).  There was aHawaiian Acerola Company, which closed due to poor production and low ascorbic acid from high copper amounts in old Pineapple fields. There are other locations in Hawaii where the tree flourishes.  In Japan there are indoor acerola orchards with each tree grown in an approximately 7 gallon and fruit profusely multiple times per year.  The fruit is processed and sold as juice, which can often be found in vending machines.  Propagation is for air layer or cuttings which root in about 2 months.  Chefs have used the fruits in sauces and reductions.

The shrubs can be pruned like citrus to help facilitate harvest.  In 1963 Dr. Henry Y. Nakasone, University of Hawaii introduced the “Manoa Sweet” variety.  Others found in Hawaii include Beaumont, Haley, Hawaiian Queen, and Maunawili.


Avocado (Persea Americana)

Hawaii is well known for a wide variety of excellent avocados making the fruit available year around. http://www.hawaiifruit.net/Avocado.pdf The HTFG repositories will feature a number of promising and unusual varieties including Serpa, Hulumanu, Nishikawa seedlings, MIT 13 as well as the popular Kahaluu, Malama, Green Gold and Beshore. There are numbers avocado publications form the University of Hawaii on how to care for avocado trees.


Abiurana   (Pouteria bullata)

 Very rare in Hawaii the abiurana is closely related to the Abiu, http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/F_N-24.pdf. HTFG has been able to propagate the tree for its repositories and plans on establishing the trees on all islands. The very sweet caramel custard tasting fruit has become a favorite of everyone who has tried it. Trees would be cared for as any Pouteria as outlined in the above mentioned publication.

Artocarpus hirsutus

Extremely rare in Hawaii with no producing trees are a favorite in South India for     both wood use and like a small orange flesh jackfruit.  Growth patterns and horticultural practices are similar to other artocarpus like jackfruit and breadfruit.


Bananas   (Musa)

One of the original canoe plants to come with the first Hawaiian settlers, the fruit has played an integral part in ancient as well as modern Hawaiian culture. The HTFG repository project with help from Slowfood Hawaii is in the process of cloning endangered Hawaiian bananas such as eleele, aeae, Iholena and popoulu. Some of these have been planted in the repositories while others like mahoi and hua moa have been cloned and ready to distribute.  HTFG has also planted an additional 20 varieties that will be made available in the future. As there are many restrictions on interisland movement of bananas searches continue on each island for additional varieties that can be planted and tissue cultured for future distribution,


Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis)

A large shrub or small tree that likes well drained soils and full sun.  Mature leaves may be harvested at any time.  The dried leaves are widely used in Mediterranean cuisines and to flavor soups and stews.


Blue grape tree (Myrciaria vexator)

A member of the Myrciaria family and close relative of Jaboticaba. The tree rarely gets about 25 feet and is slow growing.  The fruit is utilized the same way as jaboticaba with a similar taste.


Cashew  (Anacardium occidentale)

Highly prized for its nuts and undervalued for its “apple”. The tree is sometimes found in Hawaiian gardens. In 2-15 and 2016 there are a number of state programs to develop Grown in Hawaii Cashews and value added products from the cashew apple. Related to Mango, care must be taken during processing of both the nut and apple as caustic fumes can cause some problems.


Chico (Manilkara zapota)

This slow growing tree can reach heights of 100 feet. It was thought to come to Hawaii in the early to mid 1800’s via the Philippines. Originating in  Southern Mexico the fruit is very sweet, often called brown sugar chico in Hawaii. The fruit is extremely popular in the Phillipines, India and throught Central America. A byproduct of the tree is Chicle, the trees latex. This was the first chewing gum.


Chupachupa (Quararibea cordata)

A very large up to 150 foot fast growing tree that produces sweet tasting fruit for eating out of hand or juicing. There are just a few producing trees in Hawaii and Flordia but growers and collectors are trying to produce more because of the high fruit quality.  Often confused with different sapote, this sub-tropical tree would do well in some of hawaii’s higher elevations.


 Cowa (Garcinia cowa)

Very few of these trees exist outside of India and South East Asia. The author brought a number of trees and seeds from India which should start to produce in a few years. Although sometimes eaten out of hand, the fruit makes an incredibly good syrup and jam and is arguably the best Garcinia for value added products.


Cut nut (Barringtonia edulis)

An extremely attractive and useful tree that produces the delicious cut nut. Tall and narrow growing up to 50 plus feet with a 15-foot-wide canopy. The large 3 to 4 inch black nuts have a high oil content and are enjoyed in Vanuatu and other South Pacific islands.


 Durian (Durio zibethinus )

A legendary fruit known equally for its negative small and positive taste has had many volumes written about it in Scientific journals, ancient folk lore stories and daily blogs like http://www.yearofthedurian.com/.

 Durian’s potential in Hawaii is considerable both for visitors and as an export crop. There is no pest risk assessment needed to send durian to the mainland U.S. where it can be treated similarly and marketed like pineapple or papaya and other fruit not requiring treatment. In 1997 Thailand exported 78,000 tons of frozen durian. For Hawaii this represents an incredible opportunity to export fresh durian with waiting Asian markets in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other locations with direct flights from Hawaii. Durians can take 12 years to fruit from seed with unknown results. Grafting and airlayering can insure faster fruiting.


Eggfruit  Canistel (Pouteria campechiana)

A tall tree (40 feet) in the sapote family there are a number of shapes and sizes of the very sweet yet dry fruit. Often used to flavor smoothies in Hawaii, the fruit is extremely high in Vitamin A. As with most Pouteria, seeds are viable for only a short period. Most grafts are successful but  cuttings are difficult to root.



This work in progress will be updated regularly, more coming soon…