Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens
The Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial

Soursop Tree

Annona muricata
National Tropical Botanical Garden, Koloa, Hawaii

I first noticed this tree while walking around the fruit orchard at the National Tropical Botanical Garden. While spending 5 weeks at this garden each winter I got into the habit of taking an early evening walk after the heat of the day had abated with the Director of Conservation and Science, Dave Lorence. Each time we walked he would take me to a different area of the garden and tell me stories about the trees, some of which he collected as seed throughout the Pacific and planted over 30 years ago. Many trees that are planted in the garden are rare, endangered or difficult to grow. The soursop is a useful tree producing an abundance of edible fruit. The flowers of this tree are unusual because they have thick leathery petals in a yellowish green color. The fruit of this tree are extremely unusual as well, with prickly spikes on the outside. When we visited the soursop trees, Dave showed me the various trees they had and which had the most delicious fruit because they were less seedy and fibrous. I learned that the soursop is closely related to the paw paw tree which is native to the Eastern United States. Once I tasted the fleshy fruit of the soursop I was reminded of the paw paw fruit, though they look nothing alike on the outside. On the inside they both taste like a combination of banana, coconut and citrus in a creamy custard. Dave recommended blending the soursop into a smoothie which I tried and liked very much.


I started drawing and studying the components of this tree and decided I wanted my composition to be a large sketchbook page so I could include my notes and details about it. It was so interesting to study this fascinating tree and make my composition an exploration of this process. This allowed me to be playful with the composition and add specific details that I discovered about this plant. I studied the flower under the microscope and drew the reproductive parts. It was difficult to figure out the pistils and the stamen because they were so numerous and tightly packed on to the flower. The fruit has a interesting pattern and I learned a new word to describe it: tesselation (in botany referring to a checkered pattern). While I was drawing this plant, I was with a group of international botanical artists working together at the NTBG Florilegium Project. Everyone was interested in the plant and helped me decide on who were the girls and boys in the reproductive parts and what a tessellated pattern is. Of course everyone was happy to sample the fruit as well.


Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual International
  • © 2017 Wendy Hollender
    Soursop Tree
    Annona muricata
    Colored pencil, graphite, and watercolor on paper
    20" x 15"