The Bilimbi Tree: An Attractive and Long-Lived Plant

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The Bilimbi tree is a long-lived and attractive tree that can reach a height of 16 to 33 ft. The leaves are similar to those of the Otaheite gooseberry and are mainly clustered at the branch tips. The fruit is ellipsoid or obovoid, faintly 5-sided, and capped by a thin, star-shaped calyx at the stem-end. The outer skin is glossy and very thin, while the flesh is green, jelly-like, juicy, and extremely acidic. The Bilimbi tree is cultivated or found semi-worldwide throughout Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. In India, the Bilimbi is usually found in gardens and has gone wild in the warmest regions of the country. Outside Asia, the tree is cultivated in Zanzibar and has been introduced in Jamaica and throughout Central and South America, where it is known as Mimbro. The leaves and flowers of the Bilimbi tree have various medicinal uses, including treating itches, skin eruptions, coughs, and rectal inflammations. The Bilimbi tree is known by different names depending on the country, including kamias, Balimbing, Belimbeng buloh, Balimbing, Taling pling, and Blimbing Plum.

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The Bilimbi tree is attractive, long-lived, it reaches 16 to 33 ft (5-10 meters) in height. The leaves, very similar to those of the Otaheite gooseberry and mainly clustered at the branch tips, are alternate, 12 to 4 inches (30-60 cm) long, with 11 to 37 alternate or sub opposite leaflets, ovate or oblong, with rounded base and pointed tip. Small, fragrant, 5-petalled flowers, yellowish-green or purplish marked with dark purple.

The bilimbi is ellipsoid, obovoid or nearly cylindrical, faintly 5-sided, capped by thin, star-shaped calyx at the stem-end and tipped with 5 hair-like floral remnants at the apex. The fruit is crisp when unripe, turns from bright-green to yellowish-green, ivory or nearly white when ripe and falls to the ground. The outer skin is glossy, very thin, soft and tender, and the flesh green, jelly-like, juicy and extremely acidic. There may be or few (perhaps 6 or 7) flattened, disc-like seeds about 6 mm wide, smooth and brown.

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Possibly originated in Moluccas, Indonesia, the species is cultivated or found semi-worldwide throughout the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar and it is common in other Southeast Asian countries. In India, where it is usually found in gardens, the bilimbi has gone wd in the warmest regions of the country. Outside Asia, the tree is cultivated in Zanzibar. It is also introduced in Jamaica throughout Central and South America where it is known as “Mimbro”. This is essentially a tropical tree, lessresistant to cold , growing best in rich and well-drained soil.

In the Philippines, the leaves are applied as a paste on itches, swellings of mumps and rheumatism, ad on skin eruptions. Elsewhere, they are applied on bites of poisonous creatures. A leaf infusion is remedy for coughs and is taken after childbirth as a venereal disease. A leaf decoction is taken to relieve rectal inflammations. A flower infusion is said to be effective against coughs and thrush. The Kamias Averrrhoa bilimbi L. , which is included in the Oxalidaceae family, it is quite different in appearance, manner fruiting, flavour and uses.

The only strictly English names are cucumber tree and tree sorrel, bestowed by the British in colonial times. “Bilimbi”, the common name in India and has become widely used. In Malaya, it is called Belimbeng buloh, B’ling or billing-billing. In Indonesia, Balimbing, bilimbing. In Thailand, Taling pling or Taling pring. In Jamaica it is called, Blimbing Plum; in Costa Rica, Tiriguro. Filipinos generally call it kamias and Balimbing in Tagalog, Iba in Cebuano, Pias in Ilocano, Kalingiwa in Visaya.

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The Bilimbi Tree: An Attractive and Long-Lived Plant. (2017, Feb 17). Retrieved from

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