The bullock's-heart, although widely grown, is a fruit of little value. Compared with the sugar-apple and the cherimoya it lacks flavor. An occasional seedling produces fruit of fair quality, but there is no reason why this species should be cultivated when the sugar-apple and the ilama can be produced on the same ground.
The tree is commonly 20 to 25 feet high. It is semi-deciduous, sometimes remaining devoid of foliage for several weeks. The leaves are oblong- lanceolate or lanceolate in form, commonly 4 to 6 inches in length, acute, and glabrate. The flowers are borne in small clusters upon the new branchlets. The three outer petals are oblong linear, about an inch long; the inner ones small, scale-like, and ovate in form. The fruit is usually heart-shaped (whence its common name), but it may be conical or oval. It weighs from a few ounces to 2 pounds, and requires a long time to reach maturity. The smooth surface, usually reddish-yellow or reddish-brown in the ripe fruit, is divided by impressed lines into rhomboidal or hexagonal areoles. The flesh, which contains numerous brown seeds the size of a small bean, is milk-white in color, granular near the thin skin, and sweet, even mawkish in flavor.
Fig. 26. The bullock's-heart (Annona reticulata), a fruit widely cultivated in the tropics. (X 1/2)
Safford says of this species: "Its fruit is inferior in flavor to both the cherimoya and the sugar-apple (A. squamosa), from the first of which it may be distinguished by its long, narrow, glabrate leaves, and from the second by its solid, compact fruit as well as its larger leaves. From A. glabra, with which it is also confused, it may be distinguished readily by its elongate narrow outer petals and its small, dark brown seeds."
The bullock's-heart is indigenous in tropical America. It is more abundant in the gardens of seacoast and lowland towns than its value warrants. From America it has been carried to the Asiatic tropics, and it is now cultivated in India, Ceylon, the Malay Archipelago, Polynesia, Australia, and Africa. Vaughan MacCaughey says that it is not very common in Hawaii, but may be found in a few gardens. In the Philippines and in Guam it has become spontaneous.
One West Indian common name of this fruit, custard-apple, is applied in India to A. squamosa, and sometimes in America to A. Cherimola and other species. In India A. reticulata is often termed ramphal (fruit of Rama). In Mexico the Spanish names are anona and anona colorada; the Aztec name, which appears in the early work of Francisco Hernandez, was quauht-zapotl, or tree zapote. In the French colonies the name cachi-man or cachiman caeur-de-boeuf is generally used. In Brazil it is called in Portuguese coracao de boi.
So far as is known the tree has never fruited in California, the climate of that state being probably too cold for it. It has been planted in protected situations there but no specimens have reached large size. In southern Florida it grows and fruits well. P. W. Reasoner, 1 who apparently confused this species with the cherimoya, says that it is confined to the same territory in Florida as the sugar-apple. Its requirements seem to be about the same as those of A. squamosa. It does not appear to be so partial, however, to a dry climate. The mature tree will withstand several degrees of frost without serious harm; a temperature of 27° or 28° usually does not injure it severely. In Ceylon, according to H. F. Macmillan, it does not grow at elevations above 3000 feet. In tropical America it ascends to the same altitude, or occasionally to 3500 feet.
The bullock's-heart prefers a deep rich soil with plenty of moisture. It is propagated by budding in the same manner as the cherimoya. P. J. Wester has found that it can be budded on the soursop, the pond-apple, and the sugar-apple, as well as on seedlings of its own species. As a rule, the trees bear more freely than those of the soursop and cherimoya, but not more so than the sugar-apple. There are as yet no named varieties in cultivation.