Averrhoa bilimbi

Invasive species Disclaimer

In view of the fact that some tree species are invasive, the world Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) has put in place a policy document on Invasive Alien Species, currently under draft available at Here.

For more information on this subject, please refer to
100 of the World's worst Invasive and Alien Species.

Species Index    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Multiple Criteria Search

Abelmoschus moschatus
Acacia aneura
Acacia angustissima
Acacia aulacocarpa
Acacia auriculiformis
Acacia catechu
Acacia cincinnata
Acacia crassicarpa
Acacia elatior
Acacia erioloba
Acacia etbaica
Acacia ferruginea
Acacia glauca
Acacia holosericea
Acacia karroo*
Acacia koa
Acacia laeta
Acacia lahai
Acacia leptocarpa
Acacia leucophloea
Acacia mangium
Acacia mearnsii*
Acacia melanoxylon
Acacia mellifera
Acacia nilotica subsp nilotica
Acacia pachycarpa
Acacia pennatula
Acacia polyacantha ssp. polyacantha
Acacia saligna
Acacia senegal
Acacia seyal
Acacia sieberiana
Acacia tortilis
Acacia xanthophloea
Acrocarpus fraxinifolius
Adansonia digitata
Adenanthera pavonina
Aegle marmelos
Afzelia africana
Afzelia quanzensis
Agathis macrophylla
Agathis philippinensis
Ailanthus altissima
Ailanthus excelsa
Ailanthus triphysa
Albizia adianthifolia
Albizia amara
Albizia anthelmintica
Albizia chinensis
Albizia coriaria
Albizia ferruginea
Albizia gummifera
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia lebbeck
Albizia odoratissima
Albizia procera
Albizia saman
Albizia versicolor
Albizia zygia
Aleurites moluccana
Allanblackia floribunda
Allanblackia stuhlmannii
Allanblackia ulugurensis
Alnus acuminata
Alnus cordata
Alnus japonica
Alnus nepalensis
Alnus rubra
Alphitonia zizyphoides
Alstonia boonei
Alstonia congensis
Alstonia scholaris
Altingia excelsa
Anacardium occidentale
Andira inermis
Annona cherimola
Annona muricata
Annona reticulata
Annona senegalensis
Annona squamosa
Anogeissus latifolia
Anthocephalus cadamba
Antiaris toxicaria
Antidesma bunius
Araucaria bidwillii
Araucaria cunninghamii
Arbutus unedo
Areca catechu
Arenga pinnata
Argania spinosa
Artemisia annua
Artocarpus altilis
Artocarpus camansi
Artocarpus heterophyllus
Artocarpus integer
Artocarpus lakoocha
Artocarpus mariannensis
Asimina triloba
Ateleia herbert-smithii
Aucomea klaineana
Averrhoa bilimbi
Averrhoa carambola
Azadirachta excelsa
Azadirachta indica
Azanza garckeana
Related Links
This is a picture taken in the Philippines
© Jerry E. Adrados
Averrhoa bilimbi
© Jerry E. Adrados
© Trade winds fruit
Clumps of near-ripe bilimbis
© Trade winds fruit
Bilimbi tree showing fruit growing from trunk
© Trade winds fruit

Local names:
Creole (bimbling plum,blimblin), English (cucumber tree,bilimbi,tree sorrel), Filipino (kamias), French (blimblim,blinblin,cornichon des Indes,zibeline blonde,zibeline,carambolier bilimbi), Indonesian (belimbing asam,belimbing wuluh), Khmer (tralong tong

Averrhoa bilimbi is an attractive, long-lived tree,  reaching 5-10 m in height; has a short trunk soon dividing into a number of upright branches.

Leaves mainly clustered at the branch tips, are alternate, imparipinnate; 30-60 cm long, with 11-37 alternate or subopposite leaflets, ovate or oblong, with rounded base and pointed tip; downy; medium-green on the upper surface, pale on the underside; 2-10 cm long, 1.2-1.25 cm wide. 

Flowers small, fragrant, auxiliary or cauliflorous, 5-petalled, yellowish-green or purplish marked with dark-purple, 10-22 mm long, borne in small, hairy panicles emerging directly from the trunk and oldest, thickest branches and some twigs, as do the clusters of curious fruits.

Fruit ellipsoid, obovoid or nearly cylindrical, faintly 5-sided, 4-10 cm long; capped by a thin, star-shaped calyx at the stem-end and tipped with 5 hair-like floral remnants at the apex. Crispy when unripe, the fruit 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 acid.

There may be a few (6-7) flattened, disc-like seeds, 6 mm wide, smooth, brown.

The generic name is after Averrhoes (1126-98), the widely known Arab philosopher.


A. bilimbi is a tropical tree, more sensitive to cold than A. carambola, especially when very young. Ideally, it prefers seasonally humid climates, rainfall should be rather evenly distributed throughout most of the year but there should be a 2-3 month dry season. The tree makes slow growth in shady or semi-shady situations. It should be in full sun.

Native range
Indonesia, Malaysia

The storage behaviour is intermediate and seed viability can be maintained for six months with partially dried (about 70% of harvest weight) seeds stored at 5ÂșC. To break dormancy, seeds should be soaked for 24 hours before planting.  Seeds should germinate in 14-21 days.

A. bilimbi is a tropical tree, more sensitive to cold than A. carambola, especially when very young. Ideally, it prefers seasonally humid climates, rainfall should be rather evenly distributed throughout most of the year but there should be a 2-3 month dry season. The tree makes slow growth in shady or semi-shady situations. It should be in full sun.

Air-layering has been practiced in Indonesia for many years. However, the tree is more widely grown from seed.

 A. bilimbi is generally regarded as too acidic for eating raw, but in Costa Rica, the green, uncooked fruits are prepared as a relish which is served with rice and beans or an accompaniment for fish and meat. Ripe fruits are frequently added to curries in the Far East. They yield 44.2% juice having a pH of 4.47, and the juice is popular for making cooling beverages. Mainly, the bilimbi is used in place of mango to make chutney, and it is much preserved. To reduce acidity, it may be first pricked and soaked in water overnight, or soaked in salted water for a shorter time; then it is boiled with much sugar to make a jam or an acid jelly. The latter, in Malaysia, is added to stewed fruits that are oversweet. Half-ripe fruits are salted, set out in the sun, and pickled in brine and can be thus kept for 3 months. A quicker pickle is made by putting the fruits and salt into boiling water. This product can be kept only 4-5 days. The flowers are sometimes preserved with sugar.

Timber: The wood is white, soft but tough, even-grained, and weighs 35 lbs/cu ft. It is seldom available for carpentry.

Medicine: In the Philippines, the leaves are applied as a paste or poulticed on itches, swellings of mumps and rheumatism, and on skin eruptions. Elsewhere, they are applied on bites of poisonous creatures. Malaysians take the leaves fresh or fermented as a treatment for venereal disease. A leaf infusion is a remedy for coughs and is taken after childbirth as a tonic. A leaf decoction is taken to relieve rectal inflammation. A flower infusion is said to be effective against coughs and thrush. In Java, the fruits combined with pepper are eaten to cause sweating when people are feeling "under the weather". A paste of pickled bilimbis is smeared all over the body to hasten recovery after a fever. The fruit conserve is administered as a treatment for coughs, beri-beri and biliousness. Syrup prepared from the fruit is taken as a cure for fever and inflammation and to stop rectal bleeding and alleviate internal hemorrhoids.