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Wampee Wampi Tree
Wampee/Wampi Tree in a 3 Gallon Container. Wampi is a small tree from Southern China. It bears many small white five- parted flowers in clusters at the branch tips. The fruits are globose yellow berries with five sections about an inch in diameter. The leaves are quite crinkled in appearance. The fruit is ready to pick when the skin changes from green to yellow and the flavor is like a tart gooseberry. It is usually eaten out of hand or made into jam or a refreshing drink. It is considered in both Thailand and Southern China as one of the finest fruits.
A minor member of the Rutaceae and distant relative of the citrus fruits, the wampee, Clausena lansium Skeels (syns. C. wampi (Blanco), D. Oliver; C. punctata (Sonn.), Rehd. & E.H. Wils.; Cookia punctata Sonn.; Cookia wampi Blanco; Quinaria lansium Lour.), has not traveled sufficiently to acquire many vernacular names and most are derived from the Chinese huang-p'i-kuo, huang p'i ho, huang p'i kan, or huang-p'i-tzu. In Malaya, it is known as wampi, wampoi, or wang-pei; in the Philippines, uampi, uampit, huampit or galumpi; in Vietnam, hong bi, or hoang bi. In Thailand it is som-ma-fai.
The tree is fairly fast-growing or rather slow, depending on its situation; attractive, reaching 20 ft (6 m), with long, upward-slanting, flexible branches, and gray-brown bark rough to the touch. Its evergreen, spirally-arranged, resinous leaves are 4 to 12 in (10-30 cm) long, pinnate, with 7 to 15 alternate, elliptic or elliptic-ovate leaflets 2 3/4 to 4 in (7-10 cm) long, oblique at the base, wavy-margined and shallowly toothed; thin, minutely hairy on the veins above and with yellow, warty midrib prominent on the underside. The petiole also is warty and hairy. The sweet-scented, 4- to 5-parted flowers are whitish or yellowish-green, about 1/2 in (1.25 cm) wide, and borne in slender, hairy panicles 4 to 20 in (10-50 cm) long. The fruits, on 1/4 to 1/2 in (0.6-1.25 cm) stalks, hang in showy, loose clusters of several strands. The wampee may be round, or conical-oblong, up to 1 in (2.5 cm) long, with 5 faint, pale ridges extending a short distance down from the apex. The thin, pliable but tough rind is light brownish-yellow, minutely hairy and dotted with tiny, raised, brown oil glands. It is easily peeled and too resinous to be eaten. The flesh, faintly divided into 5 segments, is yellowish-white or colorless, grapelike, mucilaginous, juicy, pleasantly sweet, subacid, or sour. There may be 1 to 5 oblong, thickish seeds 1/2 to 5/8 in (1.25-1.6 cm) long, bright-green with one brown tip.
Origin and Distribution
The wampee is native and commonly cultivated in southern China and the northern part of former French Indochina, especially from North to Central Vietnam. It was growing in the Philippines before 1837 and was reintroduced in 1912. It is only occasionally grown in India and Ceylon. Chinese people in southern Malaya, Singapore and elsewhere in the Malaysian Archipelago grow the tree in home gardens. It is cultivated to a limited extent in Queensland, Australia and Hawaii. In 1908, it was said to have been growing in a few Hawaiian gardens for many years but was not in general cultivation. It was brought to Florida as an unidentified species in 1908. The United States Department of Agriculture received seed from Hong Kong in 1914 (P.I. 39176); from Canton in 1917 (P.I. 45328), and from Hawaii in 1922 (P.I. 55598). Dr. David Fairchild was pleased with a wampee tree he grew at his 'Kampong' in Coconut Grove, Miami, and a small cottage near it was named the 'Wamperi'.
A few other specimens have been growing in southern Florida for some years, mostly in experimental collections, but the fruit is unknown to most residents despite some efforts to arouse interest in it. The wampee was growing in Jamaica in 1913. Two trees were thriving at the Federal Experimental Station, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and there were specimens on St. Croix, in the 1920's. Seeds from a Chinese grower in Panama were planted at the Lancetilla Experimental Garden, Tela, Honduras, in 1944. The tree does well in greenhouses in England.
A Chinese work translated and published in 1936, mentioned 7 varieties of Foochow, describing and illustrating 6 of them. They vary somewhat in form and size, number of seeds, season of ripening, as well as in flavor:
'Niu Shen' ("cow's kidney")–sour in flavor;
'Yuan Chung' ("globular variety")–sweet-subacid;
'Yeh Sheng' ("wild growing")–sour;
'Suan Tsao' ("sour jujube")–is very sour, of poor quality;
'Hsiao Chi Hsien' ("small chicken heart")–sweet subacid;
'Chi Hsin' ("chicken heart")–sweet; "best flavor of all";
'Kua Pan' ("melon section")–sweet-subacid.
A professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Canton listed 8 varieties of Kwangtung with, as Dr. Swingle stated, long, descriptive names such as "white-hairy-chicken-heart-sweet-wampee" and "long-chicken-heart-sour-wampee".
The wampee is subtropical to tropical, and young and mature trees have been scarcely hurt by brief exposure to 28º to 30º F (-2.22º to -1.11º C) in Florida, but they have been killed at temperatures of 20º F (-6.667º C) and lower.
The tree seems quite tolerant of a range of soils, including the deep sand and the oolitic limestone of southern Florida but thrives best in rich loam. It requires watering in dry periods though good drainage is essential.
The wampee grows readily from seeds which germinate in a few days. It can also be grown from softwood cuttings and air-layers, and can be veneer-grafted onto wampee seedlings. Dr. Swingle said it could be grafted onto grapefruit. However, trials on various Citrus rootstocks in Florida have shown various degrees of incompatibility and few, if any, can be said to have been really successful in the long run. The wampee is not a first-class fruit and the tree is of only casual interest, even as an ornamental, except in Asia.
No particular cultural requirements have been noted in the literature, except that the wampee is subject to chlorosis on limestone soils and needs applications of manganese and zinc as well as organic fertilizer and mulch to overcome this condition. Sturrock recommends thinning of the crown to avoid overcrowding.
Sseason and Yield
The fruits ripen in July and August in Florida; from June to October in Southeast Asia; in November and December in Queensland. Seedlings begin to bear when 5 to 8 years of age or sometimes older. Mature trees may yield 100 lbs (45 kg) of fruits in a season.
A fully ripe, peeled wampee, of the sweet or subacid types, is agreeable to eat out-of-hand, discarding the large seed or seeds. The seeded pulp can be added to fruit cups, gelatins or other desserts, or made into pie or jam. Jelly can be made only from the acid types when under-ripe. The Chinese serve the seeded fruits with meat dishes.
In Southeast Asia, a bottled, carbonated beverage resembling champagne is made by fermenting the fruit with sugar and straining off the juice.
The fruit is said to have stomachic and cooling effects and to act as a vermifuge. The Chinese say that if one has eaten too many lychees, eating the wampee "will counteract the bad effects. Lychees should be eaten when one is hungry, and wampees only on a full stomach".
The halved, sun-dried, immature fruit is a Vietnamese and Chinese remedy for bronchitis. Thin slices of the dried roots are sold in Oriental pharmacies for the same purpose. The leaf decoction is used as a hair wash to remove dandruff and preserve the color of the hair.