Averrhoa carambola, starfruit, has an obscure native range due to the length of its extensive cultivation. For now, Malaysia and Indonesia are the best guesses. No populations exist in the wild, only cultivated trees. Chinese sandalwood traders brought starfruit to Hawai’i from Southern China.
Starfruit is from the wood sorrel family (Oxalidaceae), the same family oxalis (a weed of nurseries). They share similar characteristics: leaves folding up at night, flowers with five petals and two rings of stamens, no stipules, and oxalis acid (a tangy flavor). Starfruit is the only tree in the family.
Starfruit is a slow-growing evergreen tree that is easy to manage in any landscape. If having too much edible fruit is annoying, you might want to find a different tree. Some people say their tree fruits up to three times a year! There are many other ways to use ripe fruits: beer, juice with a little salt, salsa, pickles, chutney, jelly, jam dehydrated, in pies, upside-down cake, muffins, and many more. In other parts of the world, unripe fruits are used in curries, soups, and chutneys.
Seeds are viable, but they may not share the same traits as the parent tree. It’s better to air layer or make vegetative cuttings from trees that are healthy with good-tasting fruit.
- Container plant
- No dangers