Tropical Almond

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I am rushing to get this posted because we leave Mumbai early tomorrow morning for two months of travel. The itinerary is more complicated than you can imagine and I am not sure how much time or energy I will have for blogging. So for my last Bombay tree, a quick post about tropical almond, Terminalia catappa.

Another really cool tree, tropical almond, unrelated to our edible almonds, is drought deciduous. I noticed that large leaves were turning red on some trees but not on others. Within a few days those trees dropped their leaves and as quickly as they fell young, new leaves appeared on the branches. Several days later other trees went through the cycle, each losing its leaves and leafing out over a period of days.

Tropical almond (Terminalia catappa), common on tropical beaches, disperses its seeds in small light-weight shells that float in the ocean until they wash up on distant shores, similar to fish-poison tree and the well-known coconut. Although it tastes like regular almond it is not related botanically.

I found some of the nuts and could not resist trying them. They were not that easy to get at and the reward, though tasty, was very small. Selections with larger edible seeds are grown.

Terminalia catappa
Notice the horizontal branching and the shallow, anchoring roots.
Barringtonia asiatica, Terminalia catappa
Tropical almond trees on right and left, fish poison tree in center. The right hand tree has already put on new leaves while the one on the left is just beginning to drop them. (Jan. 30, 2013)
Barringtonia asiatica, Terminalia catappa
Tropical almond (left) has dropped its leaves. This is the same tree as ne on the ight in the previous picture. (Jan. 3, 2013)
Terminalia catappa
This tree is actively losing its leaves. Gardeners are pruning it.
Terminalia catappa
Anchoring roots allow this plant to grow on sandy beaches.
Terminalia catappa
Terminalia catappa
Jim cutting the nut with the saw from a Swiss army knife.
Terminalia catappa
Not much of a kernel
Terminalia catappa
But it really did taste like an almond
Last Modified on March 24, 2015
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7 thoughts on “Tropical Almond

  1. Very old almond trees but fruits are not so good. But why?

  2. These are not regular almonds. Also there are selections with larger kernels.

  3. We are having a drought in Key West. My trees arei dropping leaves prematurely. Any advice? Lots of bird nests are going to be exposed.

  4. weedingwildsuburbia

    Hi Sheila. Sounds bad in Key West. Do you normally irrigate your trees? Are there water restrictions? What kind of trees are these? Here in CA, we have water restrictions so the best we can do is focus on keeping our trees alive. Although the water restrictions require short, frequent (2x/week) periods of irrigation, this is very bad for trees. It is better to do a long, slow soak once a month to every other week, depending on soil, tree type, age of tree, etc. etc.

    I don’t know much about FLA so not sure about best practices. An urban forestry non-profit here in CA called TreePeople developed a good poster on taking care of trees: (

    Let me know how it is going.

    • No water restrictions. I have lived here 10 years with worst droughts! Never experienced this Concerned for health of trees & cycle. Tropical Almond.

    • I have never had to water the Tropical almond trees before. We don’t have water restrictions. It just drier than usual. No other trees are suffering. Tropical almonds are supposdd tob be drought resistant so I am wondering if there is another issue. Leaves turning more yellowish than red before dropping. Hybiscus. Banana. Orange honeysuckle. Frangiapanis Bougenvilla Royal Poncianas are all fine.

      • weedingwildsuburbia

        Hi Sheila. I really don’t know anything about tropical plants. I’ve never lived in that kind of climate. If your tree is behaving differently than it has before and you aren’t seeing anything like it with other trees in the area, I’d call an arborist. Unfortunately it is often the case that once the problem is apparent, it is too late to do anything for it. Sorry you are having trouble with this.

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