Papayas without seeds won't stay long on trees


POSTED: Thursday, February 18, 2010

Question: I have a papaya tree that's loaded with papayas that do not have any seeds in them. Is that a common occurrence?

Answer: If the papayas are on the tree, they must have at least one or two seeds in them, said Kenneth Kamiya, president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association and president of Kamiya Gold, a 25-acre farm on the North Shore.

If there are no seeds, that usually means the female tree was not pollinated and “;normally, the fruits won't hang on,”; Kamiya said. “;That's the common cause of trees dropping fruit.”;

Regarding your papayas, “;I suspect that (they have) seeds, but they're very immature inside,”; he said. “;They have to have one or two seeds to make the fruits stay on the tree.”;

Kamiya explained that a papaya tree can be male, which sends out pollen; female, “;basically with ovaries and no pollen;”; or hermaphrodite, a combination of both sexes.

A hermaphrodite, with both ovaries and pollen, “;is one that self-pollinates ... so you'll always have fruit, unless there's some kind of stress on the tree,”; he said.

What typically is sold to consumers are hermaphroditic fruits, Kamiya said, since hermaphrodite trees basically have become the standard for growers.

For homeowners, if they've got a papaya tree and wondering why there's no fruit, Kamiya says it's probably a female tree with no male tree around to pollinate it. Meanwhile, male trees are “;the wild trees you sometimes see in the community, when people throw around seeds,”; Kamiya said. They have “;long flowers, but no fruit.”;

He also said that papayas bought locally are typically the Rainbow, which is “;the GMO (genetically modified organism) papaya that's been bred for resistance to the papaya ring spot virus,”; he said. “;Without that genetic resistance, we would have no papayas today”; in Hawaii.

Kamiya explained that University of Hawaii researchers “;converted the Sunrise papaya to be resistant to the virus,”; but that the resultant flesh of the fruit was red.

But “;we farmers told the university, 'Hey, university, we cannot sell the red stuff. We need resistant fruit, but we need the yellow flesh.' So the university crossed that red papaya with the Kapoho (Puna) papaya and that's how we got the Rainbow that you see in the market today.”;

Meanwhile, Kamiya developed his own virus-resistant Kamiya papaya, also called the Laie Gold, that's a cross between his previous Kamiya papaya and the Rainbow.

Interestingly, if you plant the seeds from a purchased papaya, you won't necessarily get the same kind of fruit—you may get a red-fleshed fruit or a yellow one, he said. “;You take your chances when you plant the seeds.”;

From the time you plant a seed, it will take 11 to 12 months for a tree to grow and bear fruit, he said.

“;How high do you want to climb after that?”; he said, when asked how long a tree will keep bearing fruit. “;They just keep growing up and up and up.”;

He says people will try to cut the top off a tree, but whether it bears fruit again is iffy: “;They may luck out or not.”;

In the end, just bear in mind, as Kamiya says, “;Papayas are unique fruits.”;

Write to ”;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).