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The Rose Apple Tree

The Rose Apple is one of many interesting fruits that, technically, is not an apple. The name Rose Apple can apply to any member of the Syzygium family that bears fruit. 

Rose apples on tree.
Rose apples on tree.

While this fruit might not be a true apple, it’s still one of the most delicious fruits to bear the name. 

History of the Rose Apple Tree 

Rose Apples are native to Malaysia and were first brought to Hawaii in 1852 from Brazil. The earliest known evidence of the this apple in Florida dates back to sometime before 1877. They are one of the many fruits that bears the name apple, but it’s not part of the malus domestica family.

European fruit naming conventions often use the name apple to label any fruit that is close enough in resemblance to the malus domestica. Rose Apple, as a common name, applies to a variety of fruits from the same family.

These fruits are notoriously tricky to grow which makes the Rose Apple tree something of a specialty. You can commonly find these apple trees throughout North America, but they are typically not fruiting trees.

They are grown in climates too far north for these trees to bear fruit, but are used as ornamental decorations for gardens instead. Many people grow Rose Apple trees and their yards, but do not know that these are fruit bearing trees.

Now that we’ve gone over the history of this tree, let’s talk about its characteristics. 

Rose Apple Tree Characteristics

Rose Apples have some very interesting characteristics.

These trees are occasionally just as small as shrubs, but often grow to around 40 feet in height. They also have a spread that can be wider than the tree is tall. All in all, this makes for one imposing and large tree.

These apple trees also have a few more unique characteristics. The leaves can grow up to 10 inches long and the fruit takes on a characteristic bell shape. A 40-foot tall tree with bell shaped fruit that can have a greater than 40 foot spread is quite the statement piece for any yard or garden.

Many of the ornamental rose trees grown in the United States are considerably smaller than this maximum height. 

Planting Zones 

Rose Apple trees are grown in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. While they can grow in much more northern climates, they are often unable to bear fruit with too much exposure to the cold.

Typically, the fruit-bearing versions of these trees are only grown in Florida and Hawaii. These are the only North American climates that are hot enough for the to produce the apple. Due to their restricted geographic range and the difficulty in growing them, the fruits are very rare. 

Size and Spacing

Spacing Rose Apple trees can be a little difficult, largely because these trees can range dramatically in their size. The typical specimen will top out around a 20-foot spread, while much larger trees can grow in excess of 40 feet. This means that there are a lot of things to consider when spacing these trees.

One way to address this problem is to space your tree by how you plan on pruning. If you want these to grow and be nurtured to reach their maximum height, then plan for greater than 40 feet of spacing between your tree and anything nearby. 

Pollination

Bee Pollinating an Apple Tree
Bee pollinates apple tree flowers.

The Rose Apple tree is a self-fertile plant. This means that you do not require a pollinator in order for this tree to bear fruit, but these trees tend to do better in the presence of pollinators. Planting your tree near a pollinator will ensure a more bountiful harvest. 

Rose Apple Tree Care

Successfully planting your tree is just the first step. You will want to be sure that you care for this tree so it is able to bear fruit for years to come. You’re need to know how to take care of this tree after it’s been in the ground for a while. Here’s what you need to know to take great care of your tree. 

Sunlight

As with many fruit trees, the Rose Apple tree is a full sunlight tree. This means that you’re going to want to plant this tree in an area that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day. Avoid planting this tree near taller plants that can overshadow it as well as large buildings.

Watering

Watering Rose Apple trees can be a little bit tricky. These trees tend to do better in areas that have a little bit more moisture than in drier climates. While these trees can handle slightly arid soil, perpetual droughts can quickly lead to serious problems with these trees.

Pruning 

Pruning an apple tree.
Pruning an apple tree.

Pruning this tree is no simple task. These trees tend to grow very quickly and become up to 40 feet in height. They grow even wider than that as well. You’re going to have your job cut out for you if you’re looking to keep this tree pruned back to a reasonable size.

Remember that with pruning any fruit tree you want to balance the ornamental nature of your work with the tree’s potential harvest. Pruning back a tree is one way to ensure that the tree is going to put more of its energy into growing fruit in the coming season

We’ve got a full guide for pruning apple trees that you can check out here.

Diseases & Care 

Our full guide on apple tree diseases can give you everything you need to know for keeping this tree healthy, but here are a few quick notes.

Mildew, leaf spot, and root rot are a few of the common diseases that the Rose Apple tree can face. Keep your eye out for these problems, and you’ll be able to keep this tree healthy for years to come. 

Pests 

These trees are very resistant to most insect pests. One of the biggest culprits of damage to this tree are aphids. The aphids themselves don’t do nearly as much damage as the mildew that they can indirectly cause. 

Common Uses For The Rose Apple Tree 

Are you ready to explore some brand new culinary territory? If so, this is the fruit you’ve been looking for. 

What Does The Rose Apple Taste Like?

This apple has both an interesting texture as well as a unique flavor.

The texture of this fruit is very similar to that of a watermelon. It has a yielding flesh with a high water content making it incredibly juicy.

After you bite into a Rose Apple, you’ll first notice it’s interesting and fruity flavor. The Apple initially has a very sweet taste that has some citrus notes later on.

One thing you’ll notice about the eating experience is the interesting floral flavor that this fruit possesses. You might be able to guess this from its name, but many people say that this tastes like rose! 

Cooking

Rose Apples can open up a whole new frontier for cooking.

These fruits are very difficult to find in North America. This means that they don’t have an established place in our culinary traditions. If you’re looking to break out into unexplored culinary territory, this is a fruit that you can make a lot of use out of.

These fruits are also staples in a variety of food cultures throughout the world. If you’re looking for an excuse to explore international cuisine, you can start growing Rose Apples in your yard. 

Eating Raw

Yes. You can eat this fruit raw, provided that you can find one in your local market. One of the downsides of this particular type of fruit, and the single reason why it’s incredibly difficult to find in stores, is that it does not store very well.

A raw Rose Apple will start to go bad within several days of being picked. This means you’re going to want to cook or eat your fruit almost immediately. Remember that the seeds of this fruit can be toxic so make sure to remove those before enjoying.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Rose Apples do not stand up very well to either canning or freezing. This means if you’re looking to preserve your fruit for the coming season, you’re going to want to dry them. You can find them dried online fairly easily. If you’re lucky enough to get these fresh, you can also try drying them on your own. 

Here is a recipe for Deliciously Healthy Oven Baked Apple Chips that you can certainly use Rose Apples for.

Baked Apple Chips.

Grasping the Culinary Power of the Rose Apple 

You’re going to have to be a little adventurous if you want to start cooking with the Rose Apple.

One of the classic dishes that uses this fruit to its fullest potential is a rice dish known as Chambakka Sadham. You’ll be able to find this recipe fairly easily online. You can also use this fruit to make a traditional kind of jam known as Chambakka jam.

Here is a great recipe idea for Chambakka wine. Also, check out this beautiful video showing the process of cooking rose apple fruit soup with seafood.

There are also a variety of other ways that you can use the fruit of the Rose Apple tree for an exciting new spin on your favorite recipes. 

Health Benefits of the Rose Apple

This fruit is packed full of a variety of health benefits that you can enjoy whether you’re cooking or eating it raw.

As with most fruit, it is a great choice for people looking to get a sweet snack that doesn’t involve processed foods or refined sugars. You can easily switch out your go to sweet snacks with an apple for an added health boost. These apples are also rich in fiber as well as a variety of nutrients that can boost your immune system and heart health in addition to giving you a tasty treat. 

Where To Buy The Tree?

You can find these trees for sale via many online retailers. You’ll be able to get a Rose Apple tree shipped directly to your home that you can then plant wherever you’d like it. You might even be able to find one of these trees at a local garden supply store or your local orchard.

Many local retailers sell this apple tree as ornamental plants. You can purchase these ornamental varieties, but if you want to grow fruit you’ll need to make sure that it is a type of Rose Apple that can fruit if taken care of. 

Where To Buy The Fruit 

Buying the Rose Apple fruit is going to be one of the most tricky tasks of all. These fruits aren’t readily available in most grocery stores. You might be able to get lucky and find them at a local produce market if you’re in a part of the United States that grows these fruits. Southern California, Florida, and Hawaii are a few of the areas where you might be able to find these apples in your local market

Sliced rose apple fruit.
Sliced Rose Apple fruit.

Another way to find these apples is to ask your local produce department to special order them for you. While this might cost a little extra, it is a way to be able to taste the fruit before you decide to plant the tree. 

Wrapping up The Rose Apple Tree 

The Rose Apple tree definitely isn’t for beginners. These trees grow very quickly and can become quite large over time. This means you’re going to be very proactive when keeping them in line. If you decide to go ahead and plant one of these trees, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most interesting fruit around.

If you find yourself in a southern part of the United States, and you’re looking for a new and exciting fruit tree for your yard, you can’t go wrong with a tree that is well-known for both its delicious fruit as well as its status as a high-end ornamental tree.