Blighia sapida
Common Name: akee 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Sapindaceae
Native Range: Western Africa
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 25.00 to 50.00 feet
Spread: 25.00 to 50.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Greenish white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12 where it is easily grown in moist, fertile, loamy, well-drained soils in full sun. Also grows well in less fertile sandy soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Blighia sapida, commonly known as ackee or akee, is an evergreen tree of the soapberry family that typically grows to 25-50’ tall. It is native to tropical West Africa. It was reportedly introduced to Jamaica and some other parts of the British West Indies in the mid-1700s via slave ships coming from West Africa. Mature trees have smooth gray bark. Each pinnate compound leaf has 6-10 oblong to obovate leaflets (to 5” each). Small five-petaled flowers in sessile cymes typically bloom biannually but occasionally more often. Flowers are greenish white and fragrant. Pear-shaped fruits are straw colored to magenta red. Each fruit is a three-chambered capsule. When ripe, each chamber splits to reveal three shiny seeds, each seed having a white fleshy aril at the base. These fleshy arils are the edible parts of the fruit, but are only edible at certain times of the year, namely, when the fruit is fresh, ripe and just opened. Arils are poisonous when unripe or when overly ripe (as when open and dropped to the ground). Fruiting may occur throughout the year, but mostly occurs from December through May. This tree is widely cultivated and naturalized in the tropics and subtropics.

Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. Ackee and saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish. Jamaicans are among the only people in the world today who actually eat this fruit on a regular basis.

Captain William Bligh (1754-1817) brought several of these trees back from Jamaica to Kew Gardens in England aboard the HMS Providence in 1793. Upon arrival at Kew, this tree was named Blighia sapida by K. D. Koenig in Bligh’s honor. Captain Bligh is perhaps best known today not for his botanical or financial interests in plants, but for his ordeal in being set adrift in 1787 in the Mutiny on the Bounty incident.

Genus name honors Captain William Bligh (1754-1817), captain of the Bounty.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word sapidus meaning of agreeable taste in reference to the fruit.

Common name of ackee is derived from the West African akye fufo.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Interesting small tropical tree for the landscape.