The tree is small to medium, to 20 or even 33 ft (6-10 m) high, with short trunk to 1 1/2 ft (45 cm) in diameter, and spreading branches, which are rusty woolly when young. The deciduous leaves are alternate, short-petioled, undulate, oblong-elliptic or oblong-lanceolate to oblongobovate, 8 to 12 in (20-30 cm) long and 4 to 5 1/2 in (1014 cm) wide, acuminate at the apex, brown-hairy on both surfaces and with prominent veins beneath. Strongscented flowers, which emerge with the new leaves, are solitary, fleshy, large, conical, usually enclosed at first by a pair of bracts; are held at the base by a rusty-hairy, 3 parted calyx, and have 3 very thick outer petals, brownhairy outside, yellowish and purple mottled within, and 3 smaller, thinner inner petals, creamy white outside, purple inside. The fruit, thick stalked, is ovoid or nearly round, 6 to 8 in (15-20 cm) wide, set with hard, somewhat 4-sided, conical protuberances, each tipped with a curved hook, and is coated overall with a brown felt. The pulp is agreeably aromatic, suggesting the mango; abundant, yellow or orange, soft, fibrous, of mild, agreeable flavor. Seeds are numerous, obovate, 1 to 1 3/16 in (2.5-3 cm) long, dark-brown, and each is enclosed in a thin, closefitting membrane. The fruit carpers separate easily when ripe.
Origin and Distribution
The soncoya is native and common in coastal lowlands from southern Mexico to Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. It is grown in dooryards and the fruit is sold in local markets, though it is of mediocre quality and not popular because it is outwardly so hard. The tree was introduced into the Philippines in the early 1900's, grew well and flowered at Lamao but apparently did not set fruit for several years. It was planted at the Federal Experiment Station at Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, in 1918 and in St. Croix in 1930. Several trees have grown well and borne poorly at the Lancetilla Experimental Garden, Tela, Honduras.
The soncoya requires a hot, humid climate and it never occurs at an altitude higher than 4,000 ft (1,200 m).
The fruits ripen in August in Yucatan; generally in the fall in Central America.
In Colombia, the pulp is eaten raw or is strained for juice, drunk as a beverage or folk remedy.
The seed extract destroys fleas. In Guatemala and Costa Rica, rural people believe the fruit to be unwholesome.
In Mexico, soncoya juice is regarded as a remedy for fever and chills. Elsewhere it is given to relieve jaundice (probably because of its color). The bark decoction is effective against dysentery and a tea of the inner bark is administered in cases of edema.