In the Arboretum Today

by Alfredo Chiri

JABOTICABA – Myrciaria cauliflora – Myrtaceae

Donated by: CRFG/Bud Adams and planted in 1991 (r.f.-09)

Common names: Guapuru, Hivapuru, Guayabo colorado, Camboinzinho

The jaboticaba bush is native to hilly regions of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and northeastern Argentina. The plant grows wild around the forests in Brazil. In 1904 three varieties of jaboticaba plants, ‘Murta’, ‘Coroa’, and ‘Paulista’, were planted in Santa Barbara, California. Most of the introduced jaboticaba plants were still alive by 1912, but all were gone by 1939. In 1940 jaboticaba seeds were started in California. It is believed that they were of the ‘Murta’ variety, and they began appearing in home gardens.

Jaboticaba bushes are slow-growing plants. The M. cauliflora will reach a height of 13 to 23 feet. They are profusely branched, beginning close to the ground and slanting upward and outward. The rounded crown may reach 20 feet across. The outer bark of the main branches is thin and flakes off, leaving white patches. Young foliage and branches are hairy.

The evergreen leaves, dark-green and glossy, are lanceolate or elliptic on very short petioles. The flowers emerge from the trunk and branches in groups of 4 and have 4 hairy white petals and about 60 stamens. The foliage hides the fruit, which is borne in abundance. Fruit varies in size depending upon the species and variety. The smooth, tough skin is very glossy, slightly acid and faintly spicy in taste. It encloses a jelly-like, transparent, all-white pulp that clings firmly to the seeds. There may be in the fruit 1 to 5 light-brown, oval flattened, hard seeds.

Jaboticabas are usually grown from seeds. Most of the seeds are polyembrionic, producing 4 to 6 plants per seed. They germinate in 20 to 40 days. Grafting is possible in some cases. Budding is not easily accomplished because of the thinness of the bark and hardness of the wood.

Jaboticaba trees grow best on deep, rich, well-drained soil, but they tolerate sandy soils. Growth is so slow that a seedling may take 3 years to reach 18 inches in height. Seedlings may not bear fruit until 8 to 15 years of age. Grafted trees fruit around 7 years. Fruit develops quickly in 1 to 3 months after flowering.

A fertilizer of 14-14-14 slow-release is placed in a series of pits around the base of the tree. The pits store and gradually release the nutrients.

Jaboticabas are mostly eaten out-of-hand by squeezing the fruit between the thumb and forefinger. The fruits are often used for making jelly and marmalade.