From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
Eugenia uniflora L.
Eugenia Michelii Lam.
Stenocalyx Michelii Berg
Season and Harvesting
Pests and Diseases
The most widely known of the edible-fruited Eugenia species,
because of its great adaptability, the Surinam cherry, E. uniflora L.
(syns. E. Michelii Lam.; Stenocalyx Michelii Berg; Plinia rubra Vell.),
is also called Brazil or Brazilian cherry, Cayenne cherry, pitanga,
and, unfortunately, Florida cherry. In Spanish it is generally cereza
de cayena; but pendanga in Venezuela; guinda in El Salvador;
ñanga-piré in Argentina; cereza quadrada in Colombia. In
Guadeloupe and Martinique it is called cerese à côtes or
cerises-cotes; in French Guiana, cerise de Cayenne, cerise de pays, or
cerise carée; in Surinam, Surinaamsche kersh, zoete kers, or
monkie monkie kersie.
Fig. 104: The Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora) is primarily grown as a hedge, the showy fruits being eaten mainly by children.
shrub or tree, to 25 ft (7.5 m) high, has slender, spreading branches
and resinously aromatic foliage. The opposite leaves, bronze when
young, are deep-green and glossy when mature; turn red in cold, dry
winter weather. They are ovate to ovate-lanceolate, blunt- to
sharp-pointed, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 in (4-6.25 cm) long. Long-stalked
flowers, borne singly or as many as 4 together in the leaf axils, have
4 delicate, recurved, white petals and a tuft of 50 to 60 prominent
white stamens with pale-yellow anthers. The 7- to 8-ribbed fruit,
oblate, 3/4 to 1 1/2 in (2-4 cm) wide, turns from green to orange as it
develops and, when mature, bright-red to deep-scarlet or dark, purplish
maroon ("black") when fully ripe. The skin is thin, the flesh
orange-red, melting and very juicy; acid to sweet, with a touch of
resin and slight bitterness. There may be 1 fairly large, round seed or
2 or 3 smaller seeds each with a flattened side, more or less attached
to the flesh by a few slender fibers.
Origin and Distribution
plant is native from Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana to southern
Brazil (especially the states of Rio de Janeiro, Paraña, Santa
Catharina and Rio Grande do Sul), and to northern, eastern and central
Uruguay. It grows wild in thickets on the banks of the Pilcomayo River
in Paraguay. It was first described botanically from a plant growing in
a garden at Pisa, Italy, which is believed to have been introduced from
Goa, India. Portuguese voyagers are said to have carried the seed from
Brazil to India, as they did the cashew. It is cultivated and
naturalized in Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia; also along the
Atlantic coast of Central America; and in some islands of the West
Indies–the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Puerto
Rico, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and in the Bahamas and
Bermuda. In 1918, Britton wrote, in the Flora of Bermuda, that ". . as
it harbors the fruit fly, the tree has been largely cut out in recent
It is frequently grown in Hawaii, Samoa, India and
Ceylon as an ornamental plant and occasionally in tropical Africa,
southern China and in the Philippines where it first fruited in 1911.
It was long ago planted on the Mediterranean coast of Africa and the
European Riviera. The first Surinam cherry was introduced into coastal
Israel in 1922 and aroused considerable interest because it produced
fruit in May when other fruits are scarce, and it requires so little
care; but over 10 years of observation, the yields recorded were
In Florida, the Surinam cherry is one of
the most common hedge plants throughout the central and southern parts
of the state and the Florida Keys. The fruits are today mostly eaten by
children. In the past, many people allowed the tree to grow naturally
and harvested the fruits for culinary use. For a while, small
quantities were sold in Miami markets. In temperate zones, the plant is
grown in pots for its attractive foliage and bright fruits.
are 2 distinct types: the common bright-red and the rarer dark-crimson
to nearly black, which tends to be sweeter and less resinous.
Surinam cherry is adapted to tropical and subtropical regions. In the
Philippines, it thrives from sea-level to 3,300 ft (1,000 m); in
Guatemala, up to 6,000 ft (1,800 m). Young plants are damaged by
temperatures below 28º F (-2.22º C), but well-established
plants have suffered only superficial injury at 22º F (-5.56º
C). The plant revels in full sun. It requires only moderate rainfall
and, being deep-rooted, can stand a long dry season.
Surinam cherry grows in almost any type of soil–sand, sandy loam,
stiff clay, soft limestone–and can even stand waterlogging for a
time, but it is intolerant of salt.
are the usual means of propagation. They remain viable for not much
longer than a month and germinate in 3 to 4 weeks. Volunteer seedlings
can be taken up and successfully transplanted. Layering has been
successful in India. The seedlings can be topworked to superior
selections by side- or cleft-grafting but they tend to sucker below the
cherry seedlings grow slowly; some begin to fruit when 2 years old;
some may delay fruiting for 5 or 6 years, or even 10 if in unfavorable
situations. They are most productive if unpruned, but still produce a
great many fruits when close-clipped in hedges. Quarterly feeding with
a complete fertilizer formula promotes fruiting. The plant responds
quickly to irrigation, the fruit rapidly becoming larger and sweeter in
flavor after a good watering.
Season and Harvesting
fruits develop and ripen quickly, only 3 weeks after the flowers open.
In Brazil, the plants bloom in September and fruits ripen in October;
they bloom again in December and January. In Florida and the Bahamas,
there is a spring crop, March or April through May or June; and a
second crop, September through November, coinciding with the spring and
The fruits should be picked only when they are so ripe
as to fall into the hand at the lightest touch, otherwise they will be
undesirably resinous. Gathering must be done daily or even twice a day.
India, pruned bushes yield an average of 6 to 8 lbs (2.7-3.6 kg) per
plant. The highest yield obtained in Israel was 2,700 fruits weighing
about 24 lbs (11 kg) from one untrimmed plant.
Pests and Diseases
cherries are highly attractive to Caribbean and Mediterranean fruit
flies, but the incidence of infestation was found to vary greatly in
Israel from location to location, some plants being unmolested.
foliage is occasionally attacked by scale insects and caterpillars. A
large, extensive hedge along a canal in Dade County blew down in
September 1982. Examination showed that the roots had been chewed off
and there were about a dozen white grubs up to 2 in (5 cm) long under
each plant. These were identified as the larvae of a sugar cane pest
that is common in Haiti.
Among diseases encountered in Florida
are leaf spot caused by Cercospora eugeniae, Helminthosporium sp., and
Phyllostica eugeniae; thread blight from infection by Corticium
stevensii; anthracnose from Colletotrichum gloeosporioides; twig
dieback and root rot caused by Rhizoctonia solani; and mushroom root
rot, Armillariella (Clitocybe) tabescens.
enjoy the ripe fruits out-of-hand. For table use, they are best slit
vertically on one side, spread open to release the seed(s), and kept
chilled for 2 or 3 hours to dispel most of their resinously aromatic
character. If seeded and sprinkled with sugar before placing in the
refrigerator, they will become mild and sweet and will exude much juice
and serve very well instead of strawberries on shortcake and topped
with whipped cream. They are an excellent addition to fruit cups,
salads and custard pudding; also ice cream; and can be made into pie or
sauce or preserved whole in sirup. They are often made into jam, jelly,
relish or pickles. Brazilians ferment the juice into vinegar or wine,
and sometimes prepare a distilled liquor.
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
|Carotene (Vitamin A)
*A composite of analyses made in Hawaii, Africa, Florida.
**Dr. Margaret Mustard found 33.9-43.9 mg in ripe red fruits; 25.3 in the "black" type.
seeds are extremely resinous and should not be eaten. Diarrhea has
occurred in dogs that have been fed the whole fruits by children. The
strong, spicy emanation from bushes being pruned irritates the
respiratory passages of sensitive persons.
leaves have been spread over the floors of Brazilian homes. When walked
upon, they release their pungent oil which repels flies. The bark
contains 20 to 28.5% tannin and can be used for treating leather. The
flowers are a rich source of pollen for honeybees but yield little or
Medicinal Uses: In Brazil the leaf infusion is taken
as a stomachic, febrifuge and astringent. In Surinam, the leaf
decoction is drunk as a cold remedy and, in combination with
lemongrass, as a febrifuge. The leaves yield essential oil containing
citronellal, geranyl acetate, geraniol, cineole, terpinene,
sesquiterpenes and polyterpenes.
Last updated: 1/22/115 by ch