An attractive, shapely tree, 20 to 35 ft (6-10 m) high, it has wiry, quadrangular, or 4-winged, branchlets which are dark reddish and minutely hairy. The trunk bark is red-brown with grayish patches. The evergreen leaves are 2 to 4 3/4 in (5-12 cm) long, 1 to 2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide, elliptic or oval, pointed, gland-dotted, thin; dark and smooth above, pale beneath. Flowers, usually borne singly, are fragrant, white, 1 in (2.5 cm) wide, with 5 waxy petals and about 300 stamens up to 1/2 in (1.25 cm) long. The fruit is round or oval, 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 in (3-6 cm) long, with yellow skin and soft, white, very acid flesh, and a few flattened seeds 3/16 in (5 mm) long. There is no musky odor.
This tree grows naturally in Colombia (especially in the Cauca and Magdalena valleys), throughout Central America and around Oaxaca in southern Mexico, usually bordering streams and in swampy woods along the coast and inland. It is commonly cultivated in home gardens in temperate highlands of Costa Rica, occasionally in El Salvador, Guatemala and northern Ecuador. It thrives in the Philippines at medium and low elevations. Introductions into California and Florida have not been very successful, the tree bearing poorly and eventually succumbing to cold spells.
Because of its acidity, the fruit is mostly used for ade, jelly and jam. It makes fine filling for pies. Early Spaniards complained that eating the raw fruits "set the teeth on edge".
Analyses in Guatemala show: moisture, 83.15%; protein, 0.78-0.88%; carbohydrates, 5.75-6.75%; fat, 0.39-0.52%; fiber, 7.90%; ash, 0.80%. The fruit is rich in pectin even when fully ripe.
The wood is fine-grained and durable, with specific gravity of 0.650-0.700. Weight per cubic meter is 650-700 kg.