Marmelada is a fruiting plant originating in tropical America, its distribution extending across wet, moist and seasonally dry areas from southern Mexico, through Central America and the Caribbean, to Guyana and Brazil.
It is fast-growing and forms a shrub or small tree 2 to 6 m (6.5 to 20 ft) tall, with a densely leafy round or pyramidal crown. The bark is red-brown and fissured.
The leaves are elongated oval, 9 to 20 cm (3.5 to 7.9 in) long, prominently veined and glossy green on top, dull green underneath. They are arranged in pairs along the stems and remain on the tree throughout the year.
The flowers are white and either female or male on separate plants. They are borne in small clusters at the tips of the branches, one or two to a cluster on female plants, six to eight on male plants and are followed on female plants by round and nippled fruit, 2.5 cm ( 1 in) in diameter, resembling a small pomegranate. The skin is smooth, green when young, becoming yellow then chocolate brown when ripe and has soft pulp embedded with numerous flat brown oval seed, each up to 0.5 cm (0.2 in) long.
There are reports of different varieties, which are said to vary by fruit size as well as colour and flavour but this is not yet confirmed.
The fruit pulp is edible, meaty with a slightly gritty texture and has an agreeable sweet-sour flavour. It is sometimes eaten fresh out-of-hand but is mostly used to flavour cold drinks and to make jam or jelly.
It produces small diameter stems made of a hard, heavy, fine-grained, grey-brown wood that is sometimes harvested for fashioning into tool handles and similar articles.
Grows naturally in moderately humid to humid tropical lowland climates, generally in areas with annual lows of 18 to 25 °C, annual highs of 27 to 33 °C, annual rainfall of 1400 to 3500 mm and a dry season of 5 months or less.
New plants usually started from seed that germinate without the need for any pretreatment. Performs best on rich to moderately fertile, free-draining clay, loam and sand soils of a moderately acid to neutral nature, generally with a pH of 5.0 to 7.0 and on sites with full to partial sun exposure. It has poor tolerance to slow-draining or waterlogged soils, though tolerates seasonal flooding, which occurs in parts of its native range. Seedlings start to fruit when around three years old.
There does not appear to be any record of it as a weed or of it escaping cultivation and naturalisation anywhere in the world. It is assessed as a low weed risk species for Hawaii, by the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment project (HPWRA). However, animals and birds especially are reported to eat the fruit and disperse the seed. This may contribute, at least in part, to the formation of thickets reported in parts of its native range.
Croat, T. B. 1978, Flora of Barro Colorado Island, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 1986, Food and Fruit-bearing Forest Species, 3 : Examples from Latin America, FAO Forestry Paper no 44/3, Rome
Gargiullo, M. B & Magnuson, B. L. & Kimball, Larry D. 2008, A field guide to plants of Costa Rica, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Janick, J., & Paull, R. E. 2008, The encyclopedia of fruit & nuts, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Lorenzi, H. 2006, Brazilian fruits & cultivated exotics (for consuming in natura), Instituto Plantarum de Estudos da Flora, Nova Odessa, San Paulo
Randall, R. P. 2007, The introduced flora of Australia and its weed status, Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management, Glen Osmond, South Australia
Standley, P. C. 1920, Trees and shrubs of Mexico, Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington D.C.
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