In the Arboretum Today
By Alfredo Chiri
CAPULIN CHERRY - Prunus salicifolia va. Harriet - Rosaceae
Donated by: CRFG/Vincent and planted in 1976 (r.f.-01)
Common names: Capulin, cerezo, detsé, taunday, jonote, puan, capuli, black cherry.
In the tropics this is an erect tree, growing 40-50 feet high. It does not grow that large in subtropical areas. The capulin is native and common to the valleys of Mexico and Guatemala. It has been cultivated in
Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia where it has become naturalized. The fruit is an important food in Latin America.
This deciduous tree with attractive alternate and aromatic foliage has mature leaves that are dark green and glossy above, while new leaves are of rosy color. The flowers are grown in slender racemes with one or more leaves at the base. They have white petals with conspicuous stamens.
The fruit is round, with red or nearly black smooth tender skin. The pulp is juicy and may be sweet or acid, agreeable but slightly astringent in flavor. It has a single large stone with a bitter kernel. The fruit is of good quality, considering it has never been cultivated. The trees produce fruit 2 to 3 years after planting and, under the right conditions, will set more than one crop per season.
Geographically the Capulin cherry is a tropical fruit, but the climatic requirements of the tree are distinctly subtropical. It is frost tolerant and does not have a high chill requirement. It grows naturally at elevations between 4,000 and 11,000 ft.
Capulin trees are planted in full sun and grow on any reasonably fertile soil. They can thrive in poor ground but seem to prefer dry sandy soils. Capulin cherries are somewhat drought tolerant but produce better fruit
with regular watering.
The fruits are ready to harvest when they have developed full color and yield to gentle pressure. The fruit will keep under refrigeration up to 6 weeks. The ripe fruits can be eaten out of hand or made into jams and
preserves or even fermented to make wine. In Mexico the fruits are used as filling for special tamales.
The Capulin cherry flowers appear in California from January to March, and the fruit ripens in July and August. In the most southern areas flowers may appear from January to May and fruits from August to
The Capulin cherry sapwood is yellow with touches of red. The heartwood is reddish-brown, very hard, strong and durable. The wood is used for furniture, cabinets and paneling. Old roots are used for carving tobacco pipes and figurines.