Getting to know Garcinia xanthochymus

Garcinia xanthochymus is a close relative of the tree that bears the common edible mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) which has been crowned the ‘Queen’ of tropical fruits. Also known as Garcinia tinctoria, Garcinia xanthochymus is commonly referred via an assortment of names such as the eggtree, gamboge tree, sour mangosteen, Himalayan garcinia and false mangosteen. It belongs to the Clusiaceae family (Guttiferae).

Garcinia xanthochymus originated probably from India and Burma. It occurs in the wild, growing in the hills of South India and can also be found widely distributed in the hill forests of the Eastern Himalayas and hence the common name ‘Himalayan garcinia ‘. In Singapore, this species of Garcinia appears to be rather rare and the place where I first encountered the plant was in HortPark.

The Garcinia species is rather bushy and adopts a rather attractive, pyramidal growth habit that can be likened to a Christmas tree. Its large leaves are linear in shape, dark green, thick and leathery in texture and they hand down from the stiff branches that extend outwards in all directions from the main trunk. It is a slow-growing tree like many other Garcinia species and can attain a height of 10 m.

Like other species in the same genus, male and female flowers usually occur on separate plants. Garcinia xanthochymus  is observed to produce both male flowers and bisexual (hermaphrodite) flowers in clusters. The latter can be distinguished by their longer longer axils. The bisexual flowers apparently self-pollinate so that fruits can form.

Unlike what one of its common name ‘eggtree’ suggests, the fruit of Garcinia xanthochymus  is not egg-shaped. The fruit has a curved pointed end which makes it look like an inverted tear-drop. Like the common mangosteen, one can find persistent sepals and staminal bundles even on a mature, ripe fruit of Garcinia xanthochymus.

Fruits produced by Garcinia xanthochymus are green when young and they turn bright yellow when ripe. They look extremely tempting and are often reported to have a juicy pulp with a pleasant acid flavour and can be eaten out of hand. I beg to differ on this as I find the pulp extremely sour and not pleasant at all! It is no wonder that the fruits can be used as a tamarind substitute in cooking. Another species, Garcinia atroviridis, bears fruits that are used in the same way. Inside each fruit, there are two brown, oval-shaped seeds.

The fruits of  Garcinia xanthochymus are also made into preserves and jams and used for making vinegar. They can also be dried so that they can be stored for a longer time and used later. A sherbet made from the dried fruits is given in bilious condition. An inferior yellow coloured gamboge that has uses as a dyestuff is obtained tapping its stems or extraction from the fruit rind. 

Garcinia xanthochymus is relatively easy to grow. Like many other Garcinia species, young individuals should be given shade when young. Plants should be given ample amounts of water during the hot and dry season. When established, this tree grows very vigorously and can adapt to a variety of soil types. It usually starts to produce fruits about 5 years after seed-sowing.

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2 responses to “Getting to know Garcinia xanthochymus

  1. kia orana,
    your site for the garcinia xanthochymus is very informative and the pictures just fantastic. Congratulations! I am growing this tree as well as the Mangisteen and look forward to its fruits.
    ka kite

  2. It would be interesting to see a graft of xantochyamus and mangostana. I have read that it can be done. Let me know if you try it. Thanks, Gene

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