Terminalia catappa
Common Name: tropical almond 
Type: Tree
Family: Combretaceae
Native Range: Tropical Asia, northern Australia, Polynesia, Malaysia
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 75.00 to 90.00 feet
Spread: 50.00 to 70.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Greenish white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Street Tree, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11 where it is best grown in acidic, moderately fertile, sandy, moist but well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates a wide range of soils and is salt tolerant. Established trees have good drought tolerance. Trees dislike temperatures below 55 degrees F. Trees have some invasive potential in maritime areas where the nuts from trees growing along ocean coasts and beaches may be spread by ocean currents (the nuts float) to other locations (tree has naturalized in the Florida Keys).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Terminalia catappa, commonly called tropical almond or Indian almond, is a medium to large deciduous tropical tree that grows to 75-90' tall (often lower in cultivation) with a spreading crown featuring horizontal branching in tiers. It is primarily native to maritime areas of Asia, Polynesia and northern Australia, but is now grown in a number of additional tropical to subtropical areas around the world. Mature trees often present a handsome ornamental appearance. Trees feature (a) short, straight trunks (single or multiple) with dark scaly bark topped by horizontal branching, (b) leathery, broad-ovate, lustrous, dark green leaves which are spirally arranged in rosette-like clusters at the branch tips, (c) apetalous greenish-white flowers in axillary spikes, and (d) dry, egg-shaped, broad-ovate, one-seeded fruits with edible seed kernels which taste like almonds.

Flowers bloom throughout the year, but more heavily in spring. Each flower spike (to 6" long) has male flowers near the tip and bisexual flowers near the base. Each flower has a tiny 5-lobed calyx with 10 stamens and 1 style. In some climates, leaf drop will occur two times per year (hence the designation of deciduous), but new leaves emerge quickly after old leaves drop (often only several days later). Leaves (6-12" long) turn an attractive red before dropping. Two-winged fruits (to 2" long) emerge green, then turn yellow before finally maturing to red. Inside the hard fibrous shell of each fruit is an edible, tasty, almond-like nut which resembles an almond in flavor, hence the common names of tropical almond or Indian almond for this tree. Commercial growth of this tree for nut production is minimal at this time in large part because of the small size of the nut kernels and the extraction difficulties.

Genus name comes from the Latin word terminus meaning end as the leaves are borne at the ends of the shoots.

Specific epithet is the Malayan name for this plant.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf spot may occur. Thrips.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, prime use is shade tree or street tree. Handsome ornamental tree. Windbreak. Excellent selection for seasides or ocean beaches. Trees are a commercial source of timber and edible nuts.