Melicoccus bijugatus

Common name: Spanish lime

Other common names: Ackee, Genip, Ginep, Guinep, Honey berry

Names in non-English languages: French Spanish


Spanish Lime or Guinep is a Lychee (Litchi chinensis) relative originating in northern parts of South America. Nowadays, the tree found throughout Central American and the Caribbean, including the Florida Keys at the southernmost tip of the United States.

It can grow into a large tree reaching heights of up to 25 m (85 ft), though is more typically 9 to 18 m (30 to 60 ft) tall. On open sites, it develops a stout trunk, sometimes with fluting in large trees, supporting a densely leafy rounded crown. The bark is grey and smooth.

The leaves are compound, made up of four, sometimes six, green leaflets arranged in pairs along the length. They are briefly deciduous in areas with a pronounced dry season but are otherwise evergreen, remaining on the tree in all seasons and in a dense arrangement that casts a deep shade.

The flowers are small, green-white, sweetly fragrant and with male and female flowers on separate trees, though some trees also have bisexual or perfect flowers mixed in. They bloom from spring to summer, coinciding with the transition from the dry to the rainy season in its native range, borne in finger-like clusters at the ends of the branches. 

Fertilised flowers are followed by small round fruit in clusters resembling bunches of large grapes. The fruit ripening from mid-summer to early autumn, with thin, leathery green skin enclosing jelly-like, translucent orange pulp surrounding a large seed, though some may be double-seeded. Fruit size varies with the variety and growing conditions, ranging from 2 to 4 cm (0.75 to 1.5 in) in diameter.


The tree is cultivated primarily for its fruit, though its attractive form and dense, wide-spreading crown has led to it being planted as a shade or street tree in some areas.

The fruit are mostly eaten fresh out-of-hand. The thin, leathery skin is easily split with the teeth or fingernail and peeled off to reveal the pulp, which is then sucked away from the seed in the mouth. The jelly-like pulp has a pleasing sweet to sub-acid flavour becoming slightly astringent close to the seed. Care is taken not to swallow the seed, which is large and may present a choking risk, particularly in small children. It is usually spat out after the pulp is sucked away.

It is reported as a major bee forage and nectar source in Jamaica, Cuba the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, with short but intense nectar flows from older trees. The pure honey is quite dark and acid but with a pleasing flavour.

It produces a pale yellow to pale brown, finely grained medium-weight wood, averaging out at about 790 kilograms per cubic meter (49 lbs per cubic ft), but with low natural resistance to rot, decay and wood-boring insects, which puts it in the non-durable hardwood class. Though not normally available, the larger logs can be sawn and used to make furniture and cabinets and the smaller roundwood pieces used for turnery and other woodcraft.


Spanish Lime flowers and fruits naturally in moderately humid tropical monsoon and savanna climates, generally areas with annual lows of 19 to 25 °C, annual highs of 27 to 35 °C, annual rainfall of 700 to 2500 mm and a dry season of 3 to 7 months. Trees may fail to flower, or flower poorly, in areas where the average low of the coldest month is below 12 °C (54 °F).


New plants are commonly grown from seed. However, seedling trees do not start to bear fruit until they are around ten years old, whereas vegetatively reproduced trees start fruiting after four to five years. Grafting cuttings of selected cultivars onto ordinary seedling rootstock has given good results, as has air-layering (circumposing) techniques.

Vegetative reproduction is also the only way of knowing which plant is female and which male, as both are needed for good pollination and fruit production.

Performs best on free-draining clay, loam and sand soils of a moderately acid to alkaline nature, generally with a pH of 5.5 to 8.0, and on sites with full to partial sun exposure. It has good tolerance to drought and limestone soils.

Problem features

The seed are reportedly dispersed by birds and bats in its native range. It is listed as a weed in at least one reference publication, but there does not appear to be any record of it anywhere as a serious weed or invasive species.

The large oval seed presents a choking risk, especially in small children and some parents make their children chew on the seed when eating the fruit.

Where it will grow



  • Adams, C. D. 1972, Flowering plants of Jamaica, University of the West Indies, Mona, Greater Kingston

  • Bradbear, N. 2009, Bees and their role in forest livelihoods : a guide to the services provided by bees and the sustainable harvesting, processing and marketing of their products, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome

  • Crane, E., Walker, P. & Day, R. 1984, Directory of important world honey sources, International Bee Research Association, London

  • Fawcett, W. 1891, Economic plants, An index to economic products of the vegetable kingdom in Jamaica, Jamaica Government Printing Establishment, Kingston

  • Francis, J. K. 1998, Tree species for planting in forest, rural, and urban areas of Puerto Rico, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Piedras, Puerto Rico

  • Francis, J. K. and Liogier, H. A. 1991, Naturalized exotic tree species in Puerto Rico, General technical report SO-82, USDA Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, New Orleans

  • Francis, J. K. et al. 2000, Silvics of Native and Exotic Trees of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands, Technical Report IITF-15, USDA Forest Service, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico

  • Gohl, B. 1981, Tropical Feeds : feed information summaries and nutritive values (Revised edition), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome

  • Janick, J., & Paull, R. E. 2008, The encyclopedia of fruit & nuts, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxfordshire

  • Kirk, T. K. 2009, Tropical trees of Florida and the Virgin Islands : a guide to identification, characteristics and uses, 1st ed, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida

  • Morton, J. F. & Dowling, C. F. 1987, Fruits of warm climates, Creative Resources Systems, Winterville, North Carolina

  • Page, P. E. 1984, Tropical tree fruits for Australia, Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QLD DPI), Brisbane

  • Randall, R. P. 2002, A global compendium of weeds, R.G. and F.J. Richardson Press, Melbourne

Articles, Journals, Reports and Working Papers

  • Morton, J. F. 1976, Pestiferous spread of many ornamental and fruit species in south Florida. In Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society (Vol. 89, pp. 348-353).

  • Watson, B.J., & Moncur, M. 1985, Guideline criteria for determining survival, commercial and best mean minimum July temperatures for various tropical fruit in Australia (Southern Hemisphere), Department of Primary Industries Queensland (DPI QLD), Wet Tropics Regional Publication, Queensland

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