Distribution: This tree is native to tropical West Africa. It was then introduced in Jamaica, and then the Caribbean islands like Haiti, Puerto Rico, Barbados, etc. It is also present in the United States and in tropical countries like Costa Rica and Panama. Natural History Notes: The Akee comes from the Guinea coast, in Western Africa. This fruit was first introduced in the Americas as a food source for the African slaves. The Akee is the national fruit of Jamaica and name means “attracts honey bees”. Its generic name was given after Captain William Blight, who introduced the tree to Jamaica from Africa, in 1776. Characteristics: The akee is an evergreen tree that has a fairly short trunk and that can reach a height of 10 m. The leaves have a feather shape and can have a length between 15 and 30 cm. The flowers produced by this tree are either male or female, show five petals and emit a sweet fragrance. The fruit has a pear shape and is green when immature. As it reaches maturity, its coloration turns bright red to yellow-orange and the fruit opens itself to expose the black seeds. Those seeds are surrounded by the arils, which is a spongy, yellow flesh. It is only the inner and fleshy yellow arils that are consumed in the fruit. Once the fruits mature and open naturally, they should be washed carefully and boiled. Akees are usually exported in cans. Notes: When one consumes the akee fruit, it is very important to eat it when it is well ripened (opened naturally) and to avoid the accidental introduction of a seed in the food. The reason is that this fruit contains toxins that can be mortal. The seeds contain compounds (cyclopropanoid amino acid hypoglycin A and derivative hypoglycin B) that can induce a rapid and dangerous fall in blood sugar that can lead to different disturbances, such as glycogen depletion in the liver. Also, the unripe arils (outgrowth that surrounds the seed) contain hypoglycin A and represent the primary source of human poisoning. The first symptoms are severe vomiting that last 6 to 48 hours. Then severe hypoglycemia and depletion of glycogen in the liver lead to a severe dehydration, coma and death. If a person suffers from heavy vomiting after having consumed this tree, he should be transferred rapidly to the hospital to remove the stomach content and to introduce glucose in the blood to stabilize its level. But no panic! This fruit has many beneficial uses. The fruit is eaten after it has ripened and has opened naturally to liberate the toxin. In Jamaica, the akee is eaten with saltfish and constitutes de national meal. The fruit contains 5% of protein, 20% of fat, 5% of carbohydrates and components like beta-carotene, thiamine and vitamin C. The fruit is not the only thing praised by Jamaican. The oil of the arils (outgrowth that surrounds the seeds) is rich in fatty acids and is used in the diet of Jamaicans. Also, the tree is often used for ornamental landscaping and its wood is used in construction because termites do not eat it.