Nakavika (Malay Apple)

  • Coffee growers often use this species to divert birds and provide shade.
  • Nakavika can be a significant cash crop when sold in local markets and is widely used in traditional medicines.
  • These trees begin flowering at an age of 7-8 years.
  • The fruit is a source of food for birds and fruit bats.

Syzygium malaccense

Native to Malesia and Australia and introduced to Oceania by indigenous travellers. In Vanuatu it appears to be naturalised and the locals recognise four to six different forms of this plant, based on the colour, size and taste of the fruits. The tree grows to 12 to 18 m in height and has a bole (trunk) that is short and often fluted. The flowers and fruits can be either pink or white, depending on the form present. The wood from this tree can be used to make canoes.


Nakavika has leaves that are opposite and simple with a blade that is ovate to oblong. They are generally 10-30 cm long and are glossy green.


Flower clusters have short stems with a few flowers up to 6 cm long on the trunk or older branches. The terminal flower develops first. The sepals of the flower, that is shaped like an inverted cone and encloses the petals and protects flower buds, is pale yellow with rounded lobes. There are four rounded flower petals that are red or pink (rarely white) and 7 to 11 mm long. The flowers contain many, up to 200, red stamens. When the flowers fall, they form a carpet under the tree.


The fruit is oblong-shaped and dark red in colour, although some, rarer, varieties have white or pink skins, including in Ambrym, Vanua Lava, Epi, Maewo, Malo, Malekula, Pentecost, Tanna and the Torres Islands (at these locations white fruit and flower forms are present). The flesh is white and surrounds a large seed.

  • First fully open flower
  • Less than half the tree is in full flower
  • More than half the tree is in full flower
  • All of the tree is in full flower
  • No flowering
  • Less than half the tree has fruit
  • More than half the tree has fruit
  • All of the tree has fruit
  • No fruit
  • Green fruit present
  • Ripened fruit present

When to Look

  • Year round
  • Nakavika flowers in early summer and bears fruit three months later. It may flower at different times in various locations in Vanuatu.
  • Flowering is usually seasonal and lasts for 1 to 2 months but the timing of flowering and seasonality can vary from place to place and year to year.
  • There can be up to 3 flowering periods per year, leaving a carpet of red or white under the tree.

 Where to Look

  • A strictly tropical tree. 
  • It can grow at a variety of altitudes but prefers locations with annual rainfall of a least 1500 mm. 

Similar Species

Syzygium aqueum (Bell or Water Apple) the fruit of this tree are smaller and bell-shaped and the flowers are white, rather than red. This species is unlikely to be encountered in Vanuatu.

Syzygium samarangense (Java Apple), the flowers of this species are white and leave subsessile (without a stalk). The fruit are slightly pear-shaped or oboval and white or pale pink. This species has been introduced to Vanuatu.

Syzygium clusiifolium This species is found in south and central of Vanuatu. The fruit of this species are egg shaped and deep crimson at maturity, flecked with pink.

Nakavika also differs from the last two species by having inflorescences on the branches and occasionally on the trunk, rather than at or near the ends of the stems.