From the Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
by Wilson Popenoe

The Guava
Psidium guajava L.

The guava, while useful in many ways, is preeminently a fruit for jelly-making and other culinary purposes. To the horticulturist the species is admirable as being one of the least exacting of all tropical fruits in cultural requirements, for it grows and fruits under such unfavorable conditions, and spreads so rapidly by means of its seeds, that it has in truth become a pest in some regions. It is a fruit of commercial importance in many countries, and one whose culture promises to become even more extensive than it is at present, for guava jelly is generally agreed to be facile princeps of its kind, and is certain to find increasing appreciation in the Temperate Zone.

The first account of the guava was written in 1526 by Gonzalo Hernandez de Oviedo, and published in his "Natural History of the Indies." Oviedo says:
"The guayabo is a handsome tree, with a leaf like that of the mulberry, but smaller, and the flowers are fragrant, especially those of a certain kind of these guayabos; it bears an apple more substantial than those of Spain, and of greater weight even when of the same size, and it contains many seeds, or more properly speaking, it is full of small hard stones, and to those who are not used to eating the fruit these stones are sometimes troublesome; but to those familiar with it, the fruit is beautiful and appetizing, and some are red within, others white; and I have seen the best ones in the Isthmus of Darien and nearby on the mainland ; those of the islands are not so good, and persons who are accustomed to it esteem it as a very good fruit, much better than the apple."

The guava is an arborescent shrub or small tree, sometimes growing to 25 or 30 feet. The trunk is slender, with greenish brown scaly bark. The young branchlets are quadrangular. The leaves are oblong-elliptic to oval in outline, 3 to 6 inches long, acute to rounded at the apex, finely pubescent below, with the venation conspicuously impressed on the upper surface. Flowers are produced on branchlets of recent growth, and are an inch broad, white, solitary, or several together upon a slender peduncle. The calyx splits into irregular segments; the four petals are oval, delicate in texture. In the center of the flower is a brush-like cluster of long stamens. The fruit is round, ovoid, or pyriform, 1 to 4 inches in length, commonly yellow in color, with flesh varying from white to deep pink or salmon-red. Numerous small, reniform, hard seeds are embedded in the soft flesh toward the center of the fruit. The flavor is sweet, musky, and very distinctive in character, and the ripe fruit is aromatic in a high degree.

The common guava of the tropics (Psidium Guajava)
Fig. 35. The common guava of the tropics (Psidium Guajava), an American plant which has become naturalized in southern Asia and elsewhere. (X 1/2)

The native home of the guava is in tropical America. The exact extent of its distribution in pre-Columbian days is not known. In the opinion of Alphonse DeCandolle, it occurred from Mexico to Peru. In the former country the Aztec name for it was xalxocotl, meaning sand-plum, probably a reference to the gritty character of the flesh. The name guayaba (whence the English guava) is believed to be of Haitian origin. The plant was carried at an early day to India, where it has become naturalized in several places. It is now cultivated throughout the Orient. In Hawaii it has become thoroughly naturalized. Occasional specimens are said to be found along the Mediterranean coast of France, and in Algeria. In short, the guava is well distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics.

In the United States, the two regions in which guavas can be grown are Florida and southern California. The plant is said by P. W. Reasoner to have been introduced into the former state from Cuba in 1847. It is now naturalized there in many places and cultivated in many gardens. It is successful as far north as the Pinellas peninsula on the west coast and Cape Canaveral on the east, but has been grown even farther north. If frozen down to the ground, the plant sends up sprouts which make rapid growth and produce fruit in two years. In California the species has not become common, as it has in Florida, nor is it suited to so wide a range of territory in the former as in the latter state. Accordingly it can only be grown successfully in California in protected situations. At Hollywood, at Santa Barbara, at Orange, and in other localities it grows and fruits well, although occasional severe frosts may kill the young branches.

Guayaba is the common name of Psidium Guajava throughout the Spanish-speaking parts of tropical America. The French have adopted this in the form goyave, the Germans as guajava, and the Portuguese as goiaba. The latter name is used in Brazil, where the indigenous name (Tupi language) is araca guacu (large aracu). In the Orient there are many local names, some of them derived from the American guayaba. The commonest Hindustani name, amrud, means "pear." The term safari am, meaning "journey mango," is also current in Hindustani.

The two species Psidium pyriferum and P. pomiferum of Linnaeus are now considered to be the pear-shaped and round varieties of P. Guajava. They represent two of the many variations which occur in this species. The pear-shaped forms are often called pear-guava, and the round ones apple-guava. A large white-fleshed kind was formerly sold by Florida nurserymen under the name Psidium guineense, and in California as P. guianense; but it is now known to be a horticultural form of P. Guajava, as is also a round, red-fleshed variety introduced into California under the name P. aromaticum. The true P. guineense, Sw. (see below) has been itself confused with P. Guajava, but can be distinguished from it by its branchlets, which are compressed-cylindrical in place of quadrangular, and by the number of the transverse veins, which is less than in the latter-named species.

The fruit is eaten in many ways, out of hand, sliced with cream, stewed, preserved, and in shortcakes and pies. Commercially it is used to make the well-known guava jelly and other products. When well made, guava jelly is deep wine-colored, clear, of very firm consistency, and retains something of the pungent musky flavor which characterizes the fresh fruit. In Brazil a thick jam, known as goiabada, is manufactured and sold extensively. A similar product is made in Florida and the West Indies under the name of guava cheese or guava paste. An analysis at the University of California showed the ripe fruit to contain: Water 84.08 per cent, ash 0.67, protein 0.76, fiber 5.57, total sugars 5.45 (sucrose none), starch, etc., 2.54, fat 0.95.
The guava succeeds on nearly every type of soil. In Cuba it does well on red clay, in California it has been grown on adobe, and in Florida it thrives on soils which are very light and sandy. While not strictly tropical in its requirements, it can scarcely be called subtropical. It is found in the tropics at all elevations from sea-level to 5000 feet, and it withstands light frosts in California and Florida. Mature plants have been injured by temperatures of 28° or 29°, but the vitality of the guava is so great that it quickly recovers from frosts which may seem to have damaged it severely. Young plants, however, may be killed by temperatures of only one or two degrees below freezing. As regards moisture, writers in India report that the guava prefers a rather dry climate.

The plants may be set from 10 to 15 feet apart, the latter distance being preferable. They should be mulched with weeds, grass, or other loose material immediately after planting. In certain parts of India, where guava cultivation is conducted commercially on an extensive scale, it is the custom to set the plants 18 to 24 feet apart. Holes 2 feet wide and deep are prepared to receive the trees. Occasionally the soil is tilled and once a year each plant is given about 20 pounds of barnyard manure. During the dry season the orchard is irrigated every ten days. Very little pruning is done.

Seedling guavas do not necessarily produce fruit identical with that from which they sprang. It is the custom in most regions to propagate the guava only by seed, but choice varieties which originate as chance seedlings can be perpetuated only by some vegetative means of propagation, such as budding or grafting.

Although the seeds retain their viability for many months, they should be planted as soon after their removal from the fruit as possible. They may be sown in flats or pans of light sandy loam and covered to the depth of 1/4 inch. When the young plants appear they should not be watered too liberally. After they have made their second leaves, they may be transferred into small pots. Since they are somewhat difficult to transplant from the open ground, they had better be carried along in pots until ready to be planted in the orchard. The proper season for planting varies in different regions; in India it is said to be July or August; in California it is April and May; while in Florida October and March are good months.

Both shield-budding and patch-budding are successful with the guava. Shield-budding is the better method of the two. P. J. Wester, who says that the guava was first budded, so far as known, in 1894 by H. J. Webber at Bradentown, Florida, describes the method in the Philippine Agricultural Review for September, 1914. He states that budding should be performed in winter. While it has been done successfully as late as May, the months from November to April are the best (in the southern hemisphere the season would, of course, be at the opposite time of year). The stock-plants should be young; it is best to use them just as soon as they are large enough to receive the bud. When inserted in old stocks the buds do not sprout readily. The method of budding is the same as that described for the avocado and mango. The bud wood should be so far mature that the green color shall have disappeared from the bark. The buds should be cut 1 to 1 1/2 inches long.
Patch-budding has been successful in California when large stock-plants have been used. They should have stems 1 inch in diameter, and the buds should be cut 1 1/2 inches in length, square or oblong in form. Propagation by cuttings is also possible if half-ripened wood is used and bottom-heat is available.

A simple method of propagation, which may be employed when it is desired to obtain a limited number of plants from a bush producing fruits of particularly choice quality, is as follows: With a sharp spade cut into the soil two or three feet from the tree, severing the roots which extend outward from the trunk. Sprouts will soon make their appearance. When they are of suitable size they may be transplanted to permanent positions. They will, of course, reproduce the parent variety as faithfully as a bud or graft.

The guava is a heavy bearer and ripens its fruit during a long season. In some regions guavas are obtainable throughout the year, though not always in large quantities. Seedlings come into bearing at three or four years of age; budded plants may bear fruit the second year after they are planted in the orchard. Indian horticulturists state that the plants bear heavily for fifteen to twenty-five years, and thereafter gradually decline in production. The guava is not a long-lived plant, but may live and bear fruit for forty years or more. The season of ripening in India is November to January; in Florida and the West Indies it is in late summer and autumn.

The guava is subject to the attacks of numerous insect and fungous enemies. The list of scale insects injurious to it is a particularly long one, including numerous species belonging to the genera Aspidiotus, Ceroplastes, Icerya, Pseudococcus, Pulvinaria, and Saissetia. All of these can be held in check by the usual means, i.e., spraying with kerosene emulsion or some other insecticide, but little attention is given to this matter in most tropical countries. The fruit-flies, including species of Anastrepha, Ceratitis, and Dacus, cause serious trouble in many regions. It is said that 80 per cent of the guavas produced in Hawaii have in some seasons been infested with the larvae of the Mediterranean fruit-fly (Ceratitis capitata Wied.). The guava fruit-rot, a species of Glomerella, is a common fungous disease in some places. There are other pests, some of them serious, which the guava-grower may have to combat.

Within the species there evidently exist more or less well-defined races, each of which includes many seedling variations. Of true horticultural varieties, propagated by cutting or grafting, there are as yet practically none. The so-called varieties listed in different regions are presumably seedling races. Indian nurserymen distinguish a number of forms, such as "smooth green," "red-fleshed," Karalia, Mirzapuri, and Allahabad. In the United States, seedlings are offered of the Allahabad guava, and of forms termed Brazilian, Peruvian, lemon, pear, smooth green, snow-white, sour, Perico, and Guinea. The number of such forms which could be listed is considerable. The Guinea variety, a white-fleshed, sweet-fruited guava with few seeds, has been propagated in California by budding, but it has not been planted extensively.

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Popenoe, Wilson. "The guava." Manual of Tropical and Subtropical fruits. 1920. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
Published 15 Dec. 2014 LR
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