Eugenia brasiliensis

Common name: Brazilian cherry

Other common names: Grumichama, Spanish cherry

Names in non-English languages: Spanish Portuguese

Description

Brazil cherry or Grumichama is a handsome fruit tree originating in subtropical Brazil, its native range limited to the southeastern states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Parana and Santa Catarina.

Under favourable conditions, it is a small tree up to 14 m (45 ft) tall. However, it is typically 3 to 7 m (10 to 23 ft) with a short trunk supporting an oval or pyramidal crown. 

The leaves are oblong oval, 8 to 13 cm (3 to 5 in) long, soft and wine red when they emerge, becoming dark glossy green with a leathery texture. They are arranged in pairs along the ends of the branches and remain on the plant throughout the year. 

Flowering is encouraged by rainfall, which in its native range arrives in spring and continues through the summer and autumn months. The flowers are ivory white, four-petaled with up to a hundred erect, needle-like stamens, each with a tiny, pale yellow, pollen-filled anther at the tip. They are perfect (with female and male parts) and bloom in large numbers on the tree. 

Fertilised flowers develop into small round fruit, 1.25 to 2.5 cm (0.5 to 1 in) in diameter, with a persistent and prominent calyx. Green when young, they ripen to deep purple or near black, less commonly orange, with juicy pulp surrounding a single, occasionally two, relatively large roundish seed.

Use

The fruit reminds of a cherry in appearance, and the ripe pulp is soft with an agreeable sub-acid flavour. It is mainly eaten fresh-out-of hand but can also be made into jam and jelly. Surplus fruit from commercial orchards is sometimes made into a puree sold to processors.

The tree is appreciated as an ornamental because of its compact, shapely form, lush green foliage and showy blooms. Mature trees, when in flower, are said to remind of the Japanese cherry trees, with their thousands of blossoms.

The wood is medium-weight, averaging about 700 kgs per cubic meter (44 lbs per cubic ft) and has moderate natural resistance to rot and decay. It has attractive pink-brown heartwood, but the logs come in diameters too small to make sawing them into lumber practical. As a result, it is primarily used in turnery and woodcraft.

Climate

Grows naturally in humid subtropical and tropical climates, generally areas with annual lows of 13 to 22°C, annual highs of 22 to 32°C, annual rainfall of 1200 to 3700 and a dry season of 4 months or less. Fruit production increases with mulching and irrigation, particularly in areas with annual rainfall less than 1500 mm.

Growing

New plants come from cuttings, air-layers (circumposed branches) and seed that remain viable for up to a couple of months and germinate within thirty days. 

Performs best on deep, rich, free-draining clay, loam and sand soils of a moderately acid to neutral nature, generally with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5, and on sites with full to partial sun exposure. It has poor tolerance to alkaline or limestone soils.

It is a shallow-rooting tree and has poor tolerance to drought. Mulching is recommended to maintain moist soil in dry weather, particularly in low rainfall areas with a pronounced dry season.

Seedling trees start to flower and fruit when about five years old.

Problem features

In Australia, it is recorded as a weed of the natural environment and having escaped cultivation, probably due to birds eating the fruit and dispersing the seed. However, it is assessed as a low weed risk species for Hawaii by the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment (HPWRA) project.

Where it grows

With irrigation or groundwater

References

Books

  • Janick, J., & Paull, R. E. 2008, The encyclopedia of fruit & nuts, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxfordshire

  • Kennard, W. C. & Winters, H. F. 1960, Some fruits and nuts for the tropics, Miscellaneous Publication No. 801, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Federal Experimental Station, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

  • Lorenzi, H. 2002, Brazilian trees : a guide to the identification and cultivation of Brazilian native trees. Vol. 1, 4. ed, Instituto Plantarum de Estudos da Flora, Nova Odessa, Sao Paulo

  • Love, K. & Bowen, R. & Fleming, K. 2008, Twelve Fruits with Potential Value Added and Culinary Uses, University of Hawaii Press, Hawaii

  • Morton, J. F. & Dowling, C. F. 1987, Fruits of warm climates, Creative Resources Systems, Winterville, North Carolina

  • Page, P. E. 1984, Tropical tree fruits for Australia, Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QLD DPI), Brisbane

  • Wilder, G. P. 1911, Fruits of the Hawaiian Islands rev. ed, Honolulu: The Hawaiian gazette co. ltd.

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