Eugenia uniflora (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
Introduction
List of species


Eugenia uniflora L.


Family: Sp. Pl.: 470 (1753).
Family: Myrtaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 22

Synonyms

  • Eugenia michelii Lamk (1789).

Vernacular names

  • Brazil cherry, Surinam cherry, pitanga (En)
  • Cerise de Cayenne, cerises-côtes, cerise carrée (Fr)
  • Indonesia: ceremai belanda, dewandaru
  • Malaysia: ceremai belanda
  • Thailand: mayom-farang (Bangkok).

Origin and geographic distribution

Brazil cherry is native to South America from Surinam, Guyana and French Guyana to southern Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. At present it is grown all over the tropics and subtropics. In South-East Asia it is rare (Java, Peninsular Malaysia, the Philippines).

Uses

Brazil cherry is grown for its edible fruit which can be consumed fresh or made into jam, jelly, relish or pickles. In Brazil the juice is fermented into vinegar or wine; sometimes a distilled liquor is prepared. Because of its peculiar, bright-coloured fruits Brazil cherry is often planted as an ornamental. It used to be popular as a hedge plant, becoming densely branched when trimmed regularly.

Crushed leaves release a pungent oil which is used as insect repellent. The bark is rich in tannin and used to treat leather. A leaf infusion is used in Brazil and Surinam as a stomachic, febrifuge and astringent. In Java fruits are used to reduce blood pressure.

Properties

Per 100 g edible portion the fruits contain: water 85-90 g, protein 0.8-1 g, fat 0.4-0.8 g, carbohydrates 8-12 g, fibre 0.3-0.6 g, ash 0.3-0.5 g, vitamin C 20-30 mg. The energy value is about 190 kJ/100 g.

The bark contains 20-28% tannin. The leaves yield essential oil containing citronellal, geranyl acetate, geraniol, cineole, terpinene, sesquiterpenes and polyterpenes. The seeds are extremely resinous and toxic.

Botany

  • Evergreen shrub or tree, up to 7 m tall, with spreading, slender, sometimes crooked branches.
  • Leaves opposite, ovate to lanceolate, 2.5-6 cm × 1.5-3 cm, base rounded or slightly cordate, apex obtuse to shortly acuminate, glabrous, glossy, pellucidly dotted, bronze when young, dark green when mature, turning red in cold, dry weather.
  • Flowers fragrant, 1-4 together in leaf axils, creamy white, about 1 cm in diameter; calyx tubular, 8-ribbed, 4-lobed; petals white, 7-11 mm long; stamens 50-60.
  • Fruit a pendulous berry, depressed globose in outline, 1-4 cm in diameter, 7-8-ribbed, greenish when young turning to orange during development, bright red to blackish when mature; skin thin, flesh orange-red, juicy, acid to sweet, slightly resinous.
  • Seeds 1 large or 2-3 smaller ones, flattened.

Seedlings grow slowly. Flowering and fruiting may start when 2 years old under favourable circumstances, usually it starts when 5-6 years old, on the flushes of the previous season or basal part of the shoots of the current season. The fruits develop and ripen quickly, only 3 weeks after anthesis. Flowering and fruiting continue over an extended period (6-8 weeks) and, depending on the climate, there may be several crops in a year.

Two types are distinguished: the most common form has bright cerise fruit and red-tinged foliage; the other form has dark-red to black berries and similarly tinted leaves; the latter is rarer and tends to be sweeter and less resinous.

Ecology

Brazil cherry is rather cold-tolerant and will stand several degrees of frost unharmed. It thrives best in full sun and requires only moderate rainfall. It withstands a long dry season. In the Philippines it grows up to 1000 m altitude, in Guatemala up to 1800 m.

It grows in almost any type of soil and withstands temporary waterlogging, but it is intolerant of salt.

Agronomy

Usually Brazil cherry is propagated by seed. Seed keeps its viability for about 1 month; germination is within 3-4 weeks. Propagation by layering or grafting is possible as well. Plants are set out 3-4 m apart or planted in hedged rows at spacings of 5 m × 1-2 m. Plants are most productive if left unpruned for a number of years. Fruiting is promoted by application of fertilizers and fruit development responds positively to irrigation. Brazil cherry is attractive to fruit flies, scale insects and caterpillars. Sometimes diseases such as leaf spot, thread blight, anthracnose, twig dieback and root rot occur. Fruits should be picked when they are fully ripe, otherwise they will be too resinous. Picking is done once or twice a day. In India pruned bushes yielded 2.7-3.6 kg fruit per plant; highest yield obtained in Israel was 11 kg fruit from one untrimmed plant.

Prospects

Brazil cherry is an adaptable plant, also suited to drier regions and highland areas of South-East Asia. It is not very demanding and is particularly useful for home gardens where it may serve as a hedge plant or ornamental as well as a fruit crop.

For commercial production, the agronomic and economic aspects need further investigation.

Literature

  • Morton, J.F., 1987. Fruits of warm climates. Creative Resource Systems, Winterville, N.C., USA. pp. 386-388.
  • Ochse, J.J., Soule, M.J., Dijkman, M.J. & Wehlburg, C., 1961. Tropical and subtropical agriculture. Vol. 1. Macmillan, New York. pp. 669-671.

Authors

Mien A. Rifai