Kwai Muk (Fig Family)
Artocarpus hypargyraeus (Moraceae)
The Kwai Muk is a subtropical fruit tree rarely seen in cultivation, though it has a lot of landscaping potential in the frost-free areas of Florida, with the added benefit of delicious fruit. The tree itself is very attractive having leaves that are a dark, glossy green and which typically reaches a height in cultivation of twenty to thirty feet. Although intolerant of even a light frost when young, mature specimens can handle an occasional dip below 30° and are quite salt tolerant. The Kwai Muk here at the Gardens is actually planted just feet from Sarasota Bay, with no sign of salt burn, and fruits profusely.
Like its relatives of the fig genus Ficus, species of Artocarpus are filled with a white sticky latex, which oozes out of broken stems and leaves alike. Even the ripe fruits can have some persistent latex which causes the lips to stick together when eaten, however unripe fruits are inedible. The trees produce both male and female inflorescences which are small and separate from each other. The female flowers, upon pollination, become a type of fruit known as a syncarp, which is a compound fruit composed of several pollinated ovaries which have fused together.
The fruit itself is sweet but with a delicious tart acidity to it, tasting almost like Sweet-Tart candy, the texture resembles soggy cotton candy. It’s something that really needs to be tasted and not described. The more ripe the fruit, the less latex will wind up in your mouth. Our Kwai Muk tree is located on the bayfront just south of the Activities Center and east of the sidewalk.
Text by David Troxell