From Neglected crops: 1492 from a different perspective
by J. Mora-Urpi (School of Biology, UCR. San Jose, Costa Rica)

Subtropical Myrtaceae

Myrciaria spp

Botanical names
: Myrciaria cauliflora Berg., M. jaboticaba Berg., M. trunciflora Berg.
Family: Myrtaceae

Common names: English: jaboticaba; Spanish: jaboticaba; Portuguese: jaboticatuba sabará, jaboticaba murta, jaboti-catuba, jaboticatuba grande, jaboticaba olho-de-boi, jaboticaba-de-cabinho (Brazil)

Among the Myrtaceae, various species of the genera Psidium Eugenia,. Feijoa, Myrciaria, Campomanesia and Paivaea stand out which are native plants of neotropical flora and produce fruit of commercial value. Jaboticaba, which has been cultivated in Brazil since pre-Columbian times and is much in demand in the centre and south of the country, is a promising fruit of this family. It is grown in small commercial gardens of 500 to 1000 trees and in domestic gardens.

Jaboticaba is eaten fresh and is known on account of its outstanding qualities, having an abundance of juice and a particularly sweet flavour. It is used industrially for jellies and to prepare domestic liqueurs and wines. It must be consumed immediately after harvesting, since it does not keep well at ambient temperature and lasts no more than three days.

Botanical description
The jaboticaba is a tree of medium habit, not exceeding 12 m in height, with a voluminous and symmetrical crown, one or more trunks and many branches. The leaves are ovate or lanceolate, 5 x 2.5 cm, smooth and shiny. The flowers occur in short racemes which emerge from the trunk, from the ground and on the main branches; there are four white petals and numerous long stamens.

The fruit is a spherical berry, 2 cm in diameter in the Sabará variety and 3 cm in the Jaboticatuba. It is grouped in racemes of three to seven, is red initially and shiny black when ripe. Sabará is the best variety; it produces polyembryonic seeds and the majority of the embryos are apomictic. while Jaboticatuba is monoembryonic with zygotic embryos. During flowering in spring, particularly in areas with dry winters, the tree flowers abundantly with the first rainfall, giving the impression that the trunk is covered with snow.

Figure 26. A) Jaboticaba (Myrciaria spp.); A1 ) cross section of the fruit; B) arazá (Eugenia stipitata)
Figure 26. A) Jaboticaba (Myrciaria spp.); A1 ) cross section of the fruit; B) arazá (Eugenia stipitata)

Ecology and phytogeography
As a subtropical, deciduous species, jaboticaba is frost-tolerant. In tropical conditions it does not flower as abundantly as in the areas where the winter is cold and dry. Flowering can be brought forward with irrigation, but the flower buds must already be developed. From ten to 20 days elapse between flowering and fruiting. Fruiting is very short and harvesting does not exceed two weeks.

The species is distributed from lat. 21°S in the state of Minas Gerais to Rio Grande do Sul, at lat. 30°S, always at altitudes higher than 500 m. It grows best in groups, on deep, acid and fertile soils. However, there are wild populations which have withstood the felling of forests in Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.

Genetic diversity
The most widespread species, Myrciaria cauliflora, produces apomictic embryos and, for this reason, shows very little genetic variability, while the zygotic species, Jaboticatuba, shows much variation but is a much rarer plant. Other Myrciaria species are little known.

Propagation and cultivation techniques
The preferred method of propagating jaboticaba is from the seeds, which are recalcitrant and not resistant to desiccation. They are sown 10 cm apart in a fertile seed bed, with 30 cm between the rows. where they remain for one year. When they are 10 to 15 cm high, they are transplanted to the nursery with a rootball and spaced 1 m apart with 2 m between rows. They stay in the nursery from three to five years and, when they reach 1.5 m in height, are planted out in the garden with the rootball measuring 60 cm in diameter. The plant's growth is slow. It is planted out at 6 x 6 m or 6 x 4 m, and it does not matter if the crowns are close together.

Various vegetative propagation techniques are used to obtain earlier plants, mainly through root cuttings, layering and grafts. However, the tree's development is always slow. In this species it is advantageous to have the greatest area of trunk and branches from which the fruit emerges. Since early production delays the plant's development, the only advantage of vegetative reproduction would be the possibility of planting at a greater density, such as 4 x 2 m.

Prospects for improvement
There is no advantage in the genetic improvement of jaboticaba. However, crossing Jaboticatuba. which produces large fruit and zygotic embryos, with the cultivar Sabará, which is of better quality but produces smaller fruit could be recommended. As 100 percent of hybrids would be obtained, it would eventually be possible to obtain selections of jaboticaba bearing large fruit of better quality.


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Bermejo, Hernández J. E. and León, J. "Subtropical Myrtaceae. Jaboticaba (Myrciaria spp.)." Neglected crops: 1492 from a different perspective. p. 229-230 by Giacometti, D. and Lleras, E. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 1994. Web. 26 Nov. 2015.

Published 15 Jan. 2015 LR
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