A small, deciduous tree about 3 to 6 m tall with open crown of irregular branches. Bark is light brown in colour with visible leaf scars, smooth or slightly fissured into plates. Leaves are single; alternate in arrangement; oblong, oblong- lanceolate or narrowly elliptic in shape; thin; dull green on the upper side, pale blue- green and covered with bloom underneath. Young leaves are slightly hairy and are aromatic when crushed. Flowers emerge on slender branches singly or in groups of two to four and are oblong in shape. Sepals are hairy and pointed. There are three outer petals, which are fleshy, yellow-green on the outside and pale-yellow inside with a purple or dark-red at the base and there are three inner petals, which look like minute scales or are absent. Fruit is compound; round, ovoid or heart shaped; soft but with thick rind composed of knob-like segments; pale-green, grey-green or yellowish-green in color and always with a bloom. Ripe fruit consists of conically segmented, creamy-white, glistening, and fragrant, juicy, sweet, delicious flesh. Each segment has an oblong, shiny and smooth, black or dark-brown seed.
Grows both in wet and dry soil but requires adequate moisture during the growing season. It is highly tolerant to drought, but requires adequate moisture during the growing season. It is intolerant to water logging. It grows on a variety of soils, including rich, well drained, deep rocky soils, but performs better on loose, sandy loams. It is shallow rooted and does not need deep soil. Trees are generally grown from seeds, which germinate better a week after removal from the fruit. Germination may take two to four weeks or more and the seedlings are ready for outplanting after six months. It is generally a slow growing tree. Vegetative propagation is preferred when sweetsop is grown as a commercial crop. Cleft-grafting, shield-budding, inarching are the common methods used. Trees grown by cuttings and air-layering have low rates of success.
Fruits are eaten fresh. Fruit flesh is also pressed through a sieve to remove seeds and is then added to ice cream or blended with milk to make a beverage. Seed kernels contain a whitish to yellowish, non-drying oil, which can be used as a substitute for peanut oil in the manufacture of soap. Bark and roots are highly astringent. Seeds are poisonous.