Cyphomandra betacea / Tree tomato

Scientific name
Cyphomandra betacea
Order / Family
Local Names
Tree tomato
Geomap Description

Geographical Distribution of Tree tomato in Africa (red marked), source ICRAF. Updated on 27th March 2019.


Geographical distribution:
 A woody shrub from Peru. A long time ago introduced to many tropical areas where it is sometimes naturalized. In Kenya 1,000 - 1,800 m. It does best on deep soils, bearing fruit in about 2 years and remaining productive for several years. Does not tolerate water-logging. Requires good rainfall, 1,200 - 2,100 mm. Agroclimatic zones I-III.


Cyphomandra betacea
Cyphomandra betacea
© P. Maundu and B. Tengnas, World Agroforestry Centre 


A large evergreen shrub to 3 m with characteristic umbrella-like branching

Bark: Young stems are shiny, old stems with rounded leaf scars. 

Leaves: Alternate, large, rather heart-shaped, 40 x 30 m cm, softly hairy, drooping in heat, on a long stalk

Flowers: In fragrant hanging groups from older stems. Each flower is 5-lobed, white-pink and with a darker stripe.

Fruit: In clusters, egg-shaped to 7 cm long, abundant, on long stems, shiny orange-red to purple.

Propagation and Tree Management



Edible fruit (vegetable, jam) bee forage


Seedings, cuttings, wildings. Use of cuttings from mother plants with good fruit ensures that a good type is propagated. Cuttings of 1 - 2-year-old wood, 10 - 30 mm thick and 45 - 100 cm long can be defoliated and planted directly in the field. Cuttings may give need to be removed to promote growth in the first year.


90,000 - 18,000 seeds per kg. Separate seed from fruit pulp, clean and dry in the shade.


 Not required, although freezing may improve germination.


Store well.


Fast growing. Pruning. Shallow root system, so deep cultivated should be avoided near the tree. Mulch is beneficial. 


The fruit is slower to ripen at higher altitudes, the acid fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, the quality depending on the variety grown. Large-scale commercial production and organized marketing occurs in New Zealand, but international trade in the fruit and preserves remains small. No named cultivars exist. Red fruits are often chosen for fresh fruit markets because they look attractive, but they have a stronger, more acid flavour than yellow ones. Yellow fruit can be canned, but the juice of the red fruit is too abrasive.


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