Barbados Cherry, West Indian Cherry, Cereza, Cerisier, Semeruco
has been renamed M. emarginata
authorities. Acerola is listed under M. glabra
Index of CRFG
: Ciruela del Monte (Bunchosia argentea
Ciruela Verde (Bunchosia
), Nance (Byrsonima
The acerola is believed to originate from the Yucatan (linguistic
evidence) and is distributed from South Texas, through Mexico
(especially on the West Coast from Sonora to Guerrero) and Central
America to northern South America (Venezuela, Surinam, Columbia) and
throughout the Caribbean (Bahamas to Trinidad). Acerola has now been
successfully introduced in sub-tropical areas throughout the world
(Southeast Asia, India, South America), and some of the largest
plantings are in Brazil.
The acerola is
typically found in dry, thorn-woodlands as a deciduous tree. It grows
in San Diego County, coastal Southern California and in more extreme
areas with protection. There are trees in Riverside, Calif. and San
Bernardino County. In general, acerola has poor cold tolerance, with
young plants typically killed at temperatures below 30° F. Trees
can survive brief exposure to 28° F with loss of leaves. Trees are
sensitive to wind (shallow root systems). The acerola is drought
tolerant, and will adopt a deciduous habit; irrigation results in leaf
and flower flush. Plants can easily adapt to pot culture in
well-draining, limed soil.
: Large, relatively fast growing bushy shrub or small
tree (to 15
feet). Can be pruned to any desired shape, but grows best as a managed
shrub. Multiple or single trunks which can be trained. Occasionally,
bushes appear to be composed of canes. Branches are brittle, and easily
broken. Leaves may be irritating to some people. The root system is
shallow, and trees can be toppled by wind, but they can be uprighted
and recover over time
Acerola leaves are dark to
light green, glossy when mature, obviate to lanceolate, with minute
hairs which can be irritating. Foliage will drop during water stress,
but recovers well with flush and flowering.
flowers are sessile or on short-peduncled cymes, with small pink to
white flowers with five petals. Up to 90% of flowers fall from tree,
but "Blossom Set" can be used to counter this effect. Flowering can
occur throughout the year, but is typically in cycles associated with
rain. Irrigation can be used to induce flowering. Flowering occurs
primarily on old growth. Pollination rarely observed, but thought to be
by the solitary bee, Centris. Honeybees do not appear effective
(contested). Cross-pollination may or may not be required depending on
variety or strain (contested). In available cultivars, fruit does set
without obvious pollinators or need for cross-pollination.
Fruits are round to oblate, cherry-like but with 3 lobes. They are
bright red (rarely yellow-orange) with thin skin, easily bruised. The
pulp is juicy, acid to sub-acid occasionally nearly sweet, with a
delicate flavor and apple notes. The fruit is very high in Vitamin C,
up to 4,000 mg per 100 g fresh weight, but typically around 1,500 mg C.
Green fruits have twice the Vitamin C level of mature fruits. Fruits
develop to maturity in less than 25 days. Seeds typically three with
fluted wings, forming a triangle. Many aspects of seed viability have
not been studied.
prefers full sun for fruit development, giving rise to the problem of
winter protection in harsher climates. Shaded trees fruit, but at
reduced fruit densities, and the plants themselves become somewhat
spindly. Due to its shallow and smaller root system, acerola can be
interplanted with other crops more closely than many trees.
Acerolas grows in marl, limestone, clay and other heavy soils as long
as it drains well; waterlogging of roots will cause plant death. Soil
pH should be 6.5-7.5 as acid soils do not promote vigorous growth.
Liming of trees and working into the soil is a common practice and
necessary for high productivity.
does best with 1000-2000 mm of water. However, as mentioned, acerola is
drought-tolerant. Irrigation can be used to cause flowering and can
regulate flower cycles. Under good constant irrigation, acerola will
flower all year, with between 1 and 3 flowering peaks. Acerola does
well with both overhead and drip irrigation.
Acerolas requires a good, balanced fertilization schedule, and regular
(once a year) liming of soil. Foliar sprays are very effective, and are
used commercially. Mineral nutrition is very important, with good
levels of boron and iron required.
The plant will
tolerate heavy pruning, but requires time for recovery. In more
tropical areas, plants do not seem overly affected by pruning. Plants
are pruned commercially with citrus pruners. Can be kept as a small
bush (e.g. 5 ft) and will produce well.
with most frost-sensitive plants, the acerola will need some protection
when grown in areas were frost can occur. Growing with overhead
protection or growing next to a wall or building may be sufficient, but
the plant may also be covered with heavy cloth or plastic sheeting
draped over a frame for added protection. Container grown plants can be
moved too a frost secure area.
Acerolas can be
propagated by seed, cutting, grafting, and other standard methods. The
plant does not appear stringent in its requirements. Seed viability can
be very low; in some groves, seedlings are never observed. Cuttings are
considered the simplest method of propagation and, with the use
standard IBA hormone, give near 100% success rates.
onto rootstocks has not been systematically studied, although grafts
onto Byrsonima crassifolia
rootstock have been successful.
: The Acerola is susceptible to root-knot
spp.) which causes serious problems with young trees and
slower losses of productivity in older trees. It is also attacked by a
variety of common insects, such as aphids, whitefly and scale. In other
areas of the world (Mexico, Caribbean) weevils (Anthonomus
serious pests, and can limit fruit production. In tropical areas,
Cercospora fungi can be a major cause disease.
fruit deteriorates rapidly once removed from tree; sensory differences
can be noted within 4 hours. The fruit undergoes rapid fermentation,
and is typically unusable by 3-5 days. Unrefrigerated fruit develops
mold quickly The best uses are direct eating, jams and jellies, and
syrups. Juices, which are popular in Brazil, do not hold their sensory
characteristics for extended periods. The fruit has also been used for
baby food, as a supplement source for Vitamin C, as an ice cream and
pop-sickle ingredient, and in many home recipes. Frozen fruit falls
apart when thawed.
In the tropics, there are typically 3
harvest periods per year. In more temperate areas, one and possibly 2
harvests occur. With regular irrigation, some fruit production may
occur through much of the year. Eight year old trees can yield from 30
to 60 pounds of fruit. From seed, plant can fruit in the 2nd or 3rd
year; cuttings may fruit in the first year. Productivity increases over
a 15 to 20 year period, and then levels or declines. Forty year old
productive trees are known in southern Florida.
: Plantings of acerola are increasing worldwide,
leading the way. The increased plantings are a direct result of
increased use of acerola for a natural source of Vitamin C for
A common variety. High in vitamin C and subacid to acid.
A low-growing cultivar, to about 2 ft. tall. Grows well in a hanging
basket. Can take colder weather than others, to
common California variety. Fruit large, 1-1/4 inches in diameter. Skin
thick. Flesh very juicy, flavor applelike, semisweet. Vitamin C content
about 1,500 to 2,000 mg. per 100 g. Tree erect, with open-type growth
and outstanding yields. Originated in Homestead, FL by the Florida
Sub-Tropical Engineering Station.
fruit of the sweet type. Tree upright, spreading, very productive.
Originated in Honolulu, HA by Henry Y. Nakasone, University of Hawaii.
Introduced in 1963.
Other named varieties include: Beaumont,
Haley, Hawaiian Queen, Maunawili, Red Jumbo, Rehnborg and Tropical
Ruby. Varieties other than B-17 and Florida Sweet are not often
encountered in Southern California, although several are now available
from Pacific Tree Farms, Chula Vista, CA.
Cooper, F. The acerola comes to California loaded with vitamin C. CRFG
Yearbook 3, 1971, pp 2-8.
Facciola, Stephen. Cornucopia: a Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong
Publications, 1990. p. 127.
Morton, Julia F. Fruits of Warm Climates, Julia F. Morton, Publisher,
1987, pp. 204-209.