In the Fullerton Arboretum
by: Alfredo Chiri
SURINAM CHERRY – Eugenia uniflora – Myrtaceae
Donated by: CRFG/ Vincent and planted 1976 (r.f.-04)
Common names: Pitanga-vermelha, Cerejeira-brasileira, Pitanga, Monki monki kersi, Cerise de Cayenne, Red Brazil cherry, Brazilian cherry, Cayenne cherry, Ceriscotes, ceremai belanda, dewandaru, mayom-farang
The Surinam Cherry, also known as the Pitanga, is a native of Brazil. The tree grows to 20-25 feet as a shrub or a small tree. The irregular trunk is heavily branched, red colored and shows some unattached bark. The pointed ovate-lanceolate leaves are reddish color when young, later turning to a shining deep green. The leaves, when crushed, give off a pleasant odor. Leaves turn red in the cold winter weather.
The leaves have an essential oil containing citronella, cineole, and turpentine. In Brazil, the crushed leaves are thought to repel flies, and are often spread on floors.
The flowers are white and fragrant and about half inch in diameter. The fruit is round, about one inch in diameter, and has eight prominent ribs. As the fruit ripens, it changes color from green to yellow to orange to deep red. It should be eaten only when fully ripe, when the flavor is distinctive and aromatic. The fruit can be eaten fresh, used in jams and jellies, or made into sherbet or fresh juice. Unripe fruit has turpentine like flavor.
The fruit is very juicy and has a high vitamin C content. Beside the vitamin C, it has also calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, riboflavin, and niacin. The fruits contain one or sometimes two round, light brown seeds.
The tree/shrub can be grown in containers or as hedge. It is hardy to 28 degrees. In western North America, it is often grown as an ornamental for its foliage, (the new growth is deep red), fragrant flowers and colorful fruit.
The plant is primarily propagated by two methods: seeds and cuttings. Seedlings, while young, will develop better when protected for the first two years. Later, they can be planted in full sun or partial shade. The soil should be kept moist for the first two months after planting.
The surinam cherry has tolerance for drought and will grow in almost any type of soil but has no tolerance for salt. The plant can be grown in tropical and subtropical zones.
The plants, besides being grown in USA, are found in the Caribbean Islands, India and China.