Article from the Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council International
by Gene Joyner
The Miracle Fruit
The miracle fruit, (Synsepalum dulcificum),
is an interesting tropical plant native to tropical Africa that
produces large colorful red berries with an interesting effect. This
shrub can be grown anywhere in the landscape, either in full sun or
light shade, but it must be grown in acid soil and does very poorly
where soil pH is too high.
Tiny flowers appear throughout the
year and crops of bright-red three-quarter inch fruits are produced
irregularly throughout the warm months. The fruits have a shiny red
skin which overlays a thin layer of yellowish pulp surrounding a large
seed with makes up about three quarters of the fruit.
interesting feature about this plant is the unusual effect that the
fruit has when you eat it. The pulp is sweet, but doesn't have any
exciting flavors; what happens after you eat one is what amazes
everyone. Anything sour tastes sweet after eating the miracle fruit and
the effect usually lasts about one hour with most people. The
sweetening effect in miracle fruit comes from a coating which is left
in the mouth after eating the fruit and as this gradually wears off, so
does the ability to have sour fruits taste sweet.
fruit's sweetening ability is being looked at fro commercial uses and
there is some interest in extracting the sweetening ingredients in
miracle fruit or producing this sweetening artificially.
fruits make great container plants and if you have outside conditions
which prohibit growing miracle fruits in the ground, they are.quite
happy and do well in large containers with generous amounts of organic
material included in the soil mix. Miracle fruits grow slowly, but can
reach heights of 15 to 20 feet at maturity. Probably the largest one in
Florida is growing in the collection of Bill Whitman in Bal Harbor and
this regularly produces thousands of miracle fruits.
African berry is easily propagated by seed, but is slow growing and
generally takes three to four years to reach flowering size. This slow
growth has caused some interest in growing miracle fruit as a bonsai,
and it will fruit quite nicely as a small size in a bonsai dish or
There are few pests associated with miracle fruit and
you rarely if ever have to apply any type of pesticides. For best
fruiting, fertilize miracle fruit lightly three to four times a year
with a balanced fertilizer if growing outside. If grown as a container
plant, fertilize with any typical liquid fertilizer about once every
three to four weeks throughout the year.
The young, miracle
fruits should be protected from cold weather, bout once they are three
or four years of age, they can take temperatures down to about 26
degrees F for brief periods with no serious injury.
If you are
looking for a really neat way to amaze guests at a future garden party,
plant a miracle fruit in your landscape or keep it asa container plant,
and the next time it's in fruit, invite friends over for a taste test
to show what the fruit can do. (And be sure to plant a lime tree
nearby, the follow in the tradition of may RFCI members, who will have
to unwary taste the unassuming red berry, .. and then the very rare
"sweet lime"! for more on this deceptive fruit, see "The Old Sweet Lime Trick'', TFN April 1992 by Donna Cannon. Ed)
area tropical fruit nurseries have plants available if you are looking
for fruiting-size plants, or if you know friends that have existing,
collect seeds and start your own.
Miracle Fruit Page