SCIENTIFIC NAME: Myrciaria cauliflora, Eugenia luschnathiana
FAMILY: Myrtaceae

The Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) is a medium-size evergreen tree native to Brazil, which is widely-grown throughout tropical regions of the world. This is a slow-growing, rather bushy tree, often multi-stemmed with opposite small leaves usually less than two inches long and about three-quarters of an inch wide. The larger trunks and branches have bark which peels off in small patches, which is found to be attractive by most people.

Trees are evergreen, but once or twice during the year they will shed large numbers of leaves generally corresponding to heavy rains or other weather conditions. Flowers are produced along the larger trunks and branches and the small white flowers only last a day or two.

The fruit forms on the trunks on short stems and there may be two to three fruits sometimes in a cluster. When trees are in heavy fruit, you cannot see the branches for all the large numbers of dark purplish-black fruits that look like large grapes. Fruit vary in size from about ¾ to 1½ inches, and have a white pulp with several small seeds like a regular grape does.

The fruits can be eaten fresh, used in jellies, jams, ice creams, wines or other products and the trees may produce between six to eight crops of fruit per year. Fruit development is very rapid, usually taking only twenty-one to twenty-five days from flower to full maturity of the fruit. Trees, because of their slow growth, lend themselves as very well for growing in containers and for use as bonsais. Most trees are produced from seed and seedling jaboticabas may not fruit until six to ten years of age. Grafting can be done with jaboticabas, but usually is only done to propagate selected forms that have larger fruit or heavier fruiting.

Trees have few pests; however, they cannot withstand much salt wind and should be protected from salt winds close to the ocean or Intracoastal. Mature trees are quite cold-hardy, taking down to 23°F for short periods without serious damage. Young trees may be injured at around 28 or 29°F.

Jaboticabas do best in acid soil with a pH of 5.5 or 6.5, much like gardenias, Trees grown on highly alkaline soils often develop micronutrient deficiencies which must be corrected by frequent applications of nutritional sprays or soil amendments.

There are few insect or disease problems that affect jaboticabas; however, birds may eat mature fruit if the crop is left too long on the tree.

For best growth and fruit production, plant jaboticabas in a rich organic-type soil, water once or twice a week and mulch heavily. Jaboticabas have shallow root systems that dry out quickly, and thrive better when planted in heavily mulched organic soils. In their native areas, jaboticabas are frequently flooded by rising rivers for weeks at a time without serious damage, so they are considered water-tolerant.

The Pitomba (Eugenia luschnathiana) is a medium-size spreading evergreen shrub native to Brazil which has been planted widely in south Florida landscapes. Growing to a height of about twenty feet with about a fifteen-root width, it has attractive opposite dark green leathery leaves which are dark green above and a lighter green beneath. The trunk is mottled brown and tan and reminds many people of that of the guava. Showy white one-inch flowers are produced from early April through June and there may be multiple crops of fruit produced some years.

Fruits are yellowish-orange, up to one-and­one-half-inches across, with thin skin and soft melting sweet flesh containing one or two large seeds. Fruit can be eaten fresh or used for excellent jellies, jams, or juice.

Trees grow well over a wide variety of soils, and they are quite cold-hardy, taking down to 26°F before sustaining damage as mature plants. Also, pitombas have fairly good salt tolerance, and can be planted where they receive some salt spray and still they will grow well.

Pitombas are easily propagated by seeds, but superior varieties that have larger or better quality fruit can be veneer-grafted. The only serious pest this shrub has are birds that attack ripening fruit and the Caribbean fruit fly, which some years infest a large percentage of the crop.

Although there are no named selections of pitomba, there are distinct differences among seedlings as to the size of the seed in the fruit, and the quality of the fruits, some being much sweeter than others.

Rate of growth on most of these is about two feet or more a year, and they make excellent hedges where sufficient plants can be brought or accumulated. For people with limited growing space, pitombas make excellent container specimens and can grow and fruit quite well in seven-to-ten-gallon-sized containers. Propagation is by seed, but it will take in most cases three to four years before seedlings reach bearing age.

Tropical Fruit News, Vol.29 No.3 March 1995

DATE: March 1997

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