The starfruit tree is a medium-sized evergreen tree with a dense, bushy crown. It has pinnate leaves with 5-11 oblong, glossy green leaflets. The tree produces small, lavender to pinkish-purple flowers in clusters. Its star-shaped fruits are yellow to golden, with a sweet-tart flavor reminiscent of citrus, apple, and grape. The tree is prized for its ornamental value and adaptability to tropical regions. This tree is grown from seeds sourced from Sri Lanka.
It takes about 20 seconds for the leaves to move from their horizontal position to vertical so when the leaves or the tree is shaken, this will activate contractile proteins that are in the pulvinus, and they will cause the leaves to droop.
The carambola fruit, also known as starfruit, is a tropical fruit with a distinctively unique shape and flavor. Here’s a description of the carambola fruit:
- Shape and Appearance: Carambola fruits have a characteristic star-like shape when sliced crosswise, hence the name “starfruit.” They are elongated and typically 7-15 cm in length. The fruit has five prominent ridges or ribs that run along its length, giving it a star-shaped cross-section.
- Color: When fully ripe, carambola fruits have a vibrant yellow color. The skin is thin and smooth, and it can range from a light yellow to a deeper golden hue, depending on the variety.
- Texture: The skin of the carambola fruit is thin and edible, and its flesh is crisp and juicy. The texture of the fruit is similar to that of a grape, and the flesh has a slight crunch when bitten into.
- Flavor: Carambola fruits offer a unique flavor profile that combines both sweet and tangy notes. The taste can be described as a blend of citrus, apple, and grape flavors. The fruit is often mildly sweet, with a pleasant acidity that adds a refreshing touch.
- Edible Parts: The entire carambola fruit is edible, including the thin, waxy skin. The skin can be somewhat tough and is usually consumed in moderation or removed before eating. The flesh is juicy and translucent, and it contains small edible seeds that are usually not a significant concern when consuming the fruit.
- Culinary Uses: Carambola fruits are enjoyed both fresh and in various culinary applications. They can be eaten as a standalone snack, sliced and added to fruit salads, or used as an ingredient in desserts, sauces, juices, and smoothies. The unique star shape of the fruit makes it a visually appealing garnish for dishes and beverages.
- Nutritional Value: Carambola fruits are low in calories and a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. They also contain small amounts of other vitamins and minerals such as potassium and vitamin A.
How to take care of a starfruit tree?
Like most of our other trees, Growing a starfruit tree (carambola) in a pot in temperate climates in Europe is necessary because starfruit trees are native to tropical regions and require warm conditions to thrive. Temperate climates in Europe, especially those with colder winters, are not naturally suitable for growing starfruit trees in the ground. By growing the tree in a pot, you have more control over its environment, allowing you to provide the necessary warmth, protection, and mobility to optimize its growth and survival. Here’s a guide on how to take care of a starfruit tree in a pot in such climates:
- Climate and Location: Starfruit trees are tropical plants, so it’s important to create a warm and protected microclimate for the tree. Choose a sunny location, preferably a south-facing spot, where the tree can receive maximum sunlight and warmth.
- Pot Selection: Select a large pot to allow for adequate root growth. Ensure the pot has good drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
- Soil: Use a well-draining, loamy potting mix with good moisture retention. You can amend the potting mix with organic matter like compost to improve fertility and water-holding capacity.
- Temperature: Starfruit trees are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost. During the growing season, keep the tree outdoors in a sunny location, but when temperatures drop below 10°C, it’s essential to bring the tree indoors or protect it with a greenhouse or cold frame. Provide additional heat if needed to maintain a suitable temperature range for the tree.
- Watering: Water the starfruit tree regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. Check the soil moisture level by inserting your finger about 2 cm into the soil. If it feels dry at that depth, it’s time to water. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot. Ensure proper drainage to prevent waterlogging.
- Fertilization: Feed the starfruit tree with a balanced fertilizer formulated for fruit trees. Apply a slow-release or liquid fertilizer according to the package instructions during the growing season. Adjust the fertilization frequency based on the tree’s growth and health.
- Pruning: Prune the starfruit tree to maintain its size, shape, and overall health. Remove dead, damaged, or overcrowded branches to improve air circulation. Pruning can be done during the dormant season or after the fruiting period.
- Pollination: Starfruit trees are self-fertile, but without natural pollinators, hand pollination may be necessary. Gently transfer pollen between flowers using a small brush or cotton swab.
- Winter Protection: Before the onset of winter, prepare the tree for indoor conditions. Gradually reduce watering and fertilizer application to allow the tree to enter dormancy. Place it in a cool, well-lit area indoors where temperatures stay above freezing. Provide adequate humidity by using a humidifier or placing a tray with water and pebbles near the tree.
Growing a starfruit tree in a pot in temperate climates requires diligent care and protection from cold temperatures. By providing suitable conditions, monitoring the tree’s health, and adjusting care practices accordingly, you can increase the chances of success in growing a starfruit tree in such climates.
Propagation of a starfruit tree
To propagate a starfruit tree:
- Seeds: Plant ripe seeds in well-draining soil, keep moist in a warm, sunny location.
- Cuttings: Take a stem cutting, remove lower leaves, plant in well-draining medium, keep warm and humid until roots develop.
- Grafting: Join starfruit scion to rootstock, secure graft, keep in warm, humid environment until successful union.
Note: Seeds may not yield identical fruit, while cuttings and grafting maintain desired traits. Results vary based on conditions and techniques.