Marmelada is a fruiting plant originating in tropical America, its natural range extending from southern Mexico, through Central America and the Caribbean, to Guyana and Brazil and within its range occurs across wet, moist and seasonally dry areas.
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.
Leaves are elongated oval, 9 to 20 cm (3.5 to 7.9 in) long, prominently veined, glossy green on top, and dull green underneath. They are arranged in pairs along the stems and remain on the tree throughout the year.
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 and six to eight on male plants. Fertilised female flowers develop into rounded and nippled fruit, 2.5 cm ( 1 in) in diameter, resembling a small pomegranate. They have smooth, green when young, becoming yellow, then chocolate brown when ripe and have soft pulp embedded with numerous flat brown oval seed, each up to 0.5 cm (0.2 in) long.
The fruit pulp is edible, meaty, with a slightly gritty texture similar to Guava (Psidium guajava), and has an agreeable sweet-sour flavour. They are eaten fresh out-of-hand, used to flavour cold drinks and to make jam and jelly.
The wood is hard, heavy and fine-grained, and small diameter stems are shaped into tool handles and similar articles.
Grows naturally in moderately humid to humid tropical lowland climates, generally areas with annual lows of 18 to 25°C, annual highs of 27 to 35°C, annual rainfall of 1400 to 3500 mm and a dry season of 5 months or less.
New plants usually start 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 saturated soils. However, it tolerates seasonal flooding in parts of its native range. Seedlings start to fruit when around three years old.
It is assessed as a low weed risk species for Hawaii by the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment (HPWRA) project. And there does not appear to be any record of it as a weed or escaping cultivation and naturalisation anywhere in the world. However, reports are that animals and birds eat the fruit, disperse the seed, and 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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