From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
Myrciaria cauliflora Berg.
Eugenis cauliflora DC.
Harvesting and Packing
Pests and Diseases
Little known outside their natural range, these members of the
myrtle family, Myrtaceae, are perhaps the most popular native
fruit-bearers of Brazil. Generally identified as Myrciaria cauliflora Berg. (syn. Eugenia cauliflora
DC.), the names jaboticaba, jabuticaba or yabuticaba (for the fruit;
jaboticabeira for the tree) actually embrace 4 species of very similar
trees and fruits: M. cauliflora,
sabará jaboticaba, also known as jabuticaba sabará,
jabuticaba de Campinas, guapuru, guaperu, hivapuru, or ybapuru; M. jaboticaba Berg., great jaboticaba, also known as jaboticaba de Sao Paulo, jaboticaba do mato, jaboticaba batuba, jaboticaba grauda; M. tenella Berg., Jaboticaba macia, also known as guayabo colorado, cambui preto, murta do campo, camboinzinho; M. trunciflora Berg., long-stemmed jaboticaba, also called jaboticaba de Cabinho, or jaboticaba do Pará.
word "jaboticaba" is said to have been derived from the Tupi term,
jabotim, for turtle, and means "like turtle fat", presumably referring
to the fruit pulp.
101: A jaboticaba tree in full bloom in Brazil is a striking example of
cauliflory (flowers arising from axillary buds on main trunks or older
Jaboticaba trees are slow-growing, in M. tenella, shrubby, 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 ft (1-1.35 m) high; in M. trunciflora,
13 to 23 or rarely 40 ft (4-7 or 12 m); in the other species usually
reaching 35 to 40 ft (10.5-12 m). They are profusely branched,
beginning close to the ground and slanting upward and outward so that
the dense, rounded crown may attain an ultimate spread of 45 ft (13.7
m). The thin outer bark, like that of the guava, flakes off, leaving
light patches. Young foliage and branchlets are hairy.
evergreen, opposite leaves, on very short, downy petioles, are
lanceolate or elliptic, rounded at the base, sharply or bluntly pointed
at the apex; 1 to 4 in (2.5-10 cm) long, 1/2 to 3/4 in (1.25-2 cm) in
width; leathery, dark-green, and glossy. Spectacularly emerging from
the multiple trunks and branches in groups of 4, on very short, thick
pedicels, the flowers have 4 hairy, white petals and about 60 stamens
to 1/6 in (4 mm) long. The fruit, borne in abundance, singly or in
clusters, on short stalks, is largely hidden by the foliage and the
shade of the canopy, but conspicuous on the lower portions of the
trunks. Round, slightly oblate, broad-pyriform, or ellipsoid, with a
small disk and vestiges of the 4 sepals at the apex, the fruits vary in
size with the species and variety, ranging from 1/4 in (6 mm) in M.
tenella and from 5/8 to 1 1/2 in (1.6-4 cm) in diameter in the other
species. The smooth, tough skin is very glossy, bright-green,
red-purple, maroon-purple, or so dark a purple as to appear nearly
black, slightly acid and faintly spicy in taste; encloses a gelatinous,
juicy, translucent, all-white or rose-tinted pulp that clings firmly to
the seeds. The fruit has an overall subacid to sweet, grapelike flavor,
mildly to disagreeably resinous, and is sometimes quite astringent.
There may be 1 to 5 oval to nearly round but flattened, hard to tender,
light-brown seeds, 1/4 to 1/2 in (6-12.5 mm) long, but often some are
abortive. The fruit has been well likened to a muscadine grape except
for the larger seeds.
Origin and Distribution
is native to the hilly region around Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais,
Brazil, also around Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Asunción, Paraguay, and
northeastern Argentina. M. jaboticaba grows wild in the forest around Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; M. tenella
occurs in the and zone of Bahia and the mountains of Minas Gerais; in
the states of Sao Paulo, Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul; also around
Yaguarón, Uruguay, and San Martin, Peru. M. trunciflora is indigenous to the vicinity of Minas Gerais.
are cultivated from the southern city of Rio Grande to Bahia, and from
the seacoast to Goyaz and Matto Grosso in the west, not only for the
fruits but also as ornamental trees. They are most common in parks and
gardens throughout Rio de Janeiro and in small orchards all around
Minas Gerais. Many cultivated forms are believed to be interspecific
An early "hearsay" account of the jaboticabas of Brazil
was published in Amsterdam in 1658. The jaboticaba was introduced into
California (at Santa Barbara) about 1904. A few of the trees were still
living in 1912 but all were gone by 1939. In 1908, Brazil's National
Society of Agriculture sent to the United States Department of
Agriculture plants of 3 varieties, 'Coroa', 'Murta', and 'Paulista'.
The first 2 died soon but 'Paulista' lived until 1917. A Dr. W. Hentz
bought 6 small inarched plants in Rio Janeiro in 1911 and planted them
in City Point, Brevard County, Florida. Only one, variety 'Murta',
survived and he moved it to Winter Haven in 1918. It began fruiting in
1932 and continued to bear in great abundance. Another introduction was
made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1913 in the form of seeds
collected by the plant explorers, P.H. Dorsett, A.D. Shamel, and W.
Popenoe from marketed fruits in Rio de Janeiro, the best of which was
described as 1 1/2 in (3.8 cm) thick. In 1914, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture received seeds from 40 lbs (28 kg) of fruit purchased in
the public market in Rio de Janeiro, which appeared different from
previous introductions being purple-maroon, round or slightly oblate,
and, at most, not quite 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter. Plants grown from
these seeds, believed to represent more than one species, were
distributed to Florida, California and Cuba. A seedling of M.
trunciflora from this lot was, up until 1928, grown at the Charles
Deering estate, Buena Vista, Florida, and then transferred to the then
U.S.D.A. Plant Introduction Station (now the Subtropical Horticulture
Research Unit) on Old Cutler Road. It made poor growth in the
limestone, but survived.
In 1918, seeds were presented to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture by the Director of the Escola Agricola
de Lavras in Minas Gerais, and most of the resulting trees were growing
at the Brickell Avenue Garden until 1926 when they were killed by the 3
ft (1 m) of salt water pushed over the garden by the disastrous
hurricane of that year. Dr. David Fairchild rejoiced that, in 1923, he
had set out two of the seedlings at his home, "The Kampong", in Coconut
Grove and these lived; one fruiting for the first time in 1935.
Seedlings of the same lot were successfully grown and fruited heavily
at the Atkins Garden of Harvard University at Soledad, near Cienfuegos,
In 1920, Dr. Fairchild and P.H. Dorsett took several young
trees to Panama and planted them at Juan Mina at sea-level where they
grew well and fruited for many years. Later, jaboticabas were set out
in the new Summit Botanic Garden. Between 1930 and 1940, plants
presumably from the Summit Garden, were installed at the Estacion
Agrícola de Palmira, in southern Colombia.
sent from Washington to the Philippines in 1924. Plants were sent to
Puerto Arturo, Honduras, and transferred to the Lancetilla Experimental
Garden, at Tela, in 1926 and again in 1929. Other plants were
transferred from the Summit Garden in 1928. The trees flourished and
fruited well in Honduras. Dr. Hamilton P. Traub, of the Orlando,
Florida, branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was establishing
a 2 1/2 acre (nearly 1 ha) experimental block of jaboticabas in 1940
for testing and study. At that time there were only a few bearing trees
in the state. Soon, nurseries began selling grafted trees and they
began appearing in home gardens.
M. cauliflora differs mainly from the other species in the large size of the tree and of the fruits. The well-known variety 'Coroa' is believed to belong to this species, also 'Murta' which has smaller leaves and larger fruits. The latter was among those sent to California in 1904.
Among commercial sorts in Brazil are:
'Sabará, a form of M. cauliflora,
is the most prized and most often planted. The fruit is small,
thin-skinned and sweet. The tree is of medium size, precocious, and
very productive. Early in season; bears 4 crops a year. Susceptible to
rust on flowers and fruits.
is very large, with thick, leathery skin. The tree is a strong grower
and highly productive though it bears a single crop. Later in season
than 'Sabará' Fruits are resistant to rust. Was introduced into
California in 1904.
very large, skin green-bronze, thinner than that of 'Paulista'. Flavor
is sweet and very good. The tree is much like that of 'Paulista'.
is large, not white, but bright-green; delicious. Tree is of medium
size and prolific; recommended for home gardens.
is turnip-shaped with pointed apex; large; with somewhat leathery skin.
Must be fully ripe for eating raw; is most used for jelly and other
preserves. Tree is very large and extremely productive.
'Rujada'–fruit is striped white and purple.
'Roxa'–an old type mentioned by Popenoe as being more reddish than purple, as the name (meaning "red") implies.
'Sao Paulo' (probably M. jaboticaba)–tree is large-leaved.
'Mineira'–was introduced into California in 1904.
has been reported from Brazil that solitary jaboticaba trees bear
poorly compared with those planted in groups, which indicates that
cross-pollination enhances productivity.
Brazil, jaboticabas grow from sea-level to elevations of more than
3,000 ft (910 m). At Minas Gerais, the temperature rarely falls below
33º F (0.56º C). Trees in central Florida have lived through
freezing weather. In 1917, one very young jaboticaba tree at
Brooksville survived a drop in temperature to 18º F (-7.78º
C), only the foliage and branches being killed back. In southern
Florida, jaboticabas have not been damaged by brief periods of 26º
F (-3.33º C).
trees grow best on deep, rich, well-drained soil, but have grown and
borne well on sand in central Florida and have been fairly satisfactory
in the southern part of the state on oolitic limestone.
are usually grown from seeds in South America. These are nearly always
polyembryonic, producing 4 to 6 plants per seed. They germinate in 20
to 40 days.
Selected strains can be reproduced by inarching
(approach-grafting) or air-layering. Budding is not easily accomplished
because of the thinness of the bark and hardness of the wood.
Side-veneer grafting is fairly successful. And experimental work has
shown that propagation by tissue culture may be feasible.
Agricultural Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, 6
related genera, including 10 species, were tried as rootstocks in
grafting experiments but none was successful. However, M. cauliflora
scions were satisfactorily joined to rootstock of the same species 1/8
to 1/4 in (3-6 mm) thick, bound with parafilm and grown in plastic bags
trees in plantations should be spaced at least 30 ft (9 m) apart each
way. Dr. Wilson Popenoe wrote that in Brazil they were nearly always
planted too close–about 15 ft (4.5 m) apart, greatly restricting
Growth is so slow that a seedling may take 3
years to reach 18 in (45 cm) in height. However, a seedling tree in
sand at Orlando, Florida, was 15 ft (4.5 m) high when 10 years old.
Others on limestone at the United States Department of Agriculture's
Subtropical Horticulture Research Unit were shrubby and only 5 to 6 ft
(1.5-1.8 m) high when 10 and 11 years old. Seedlings may not bear fruit
until 8 to 15 years of age, though one seedling selection flowered in 4
to 5 years. Grafted trees have fruited in 7 years. One planted near
Bradenton, Florida, in bagasse-enriched soil started bearing the 6th
The fruit develops quickly, in 1 to 3 months, after flowering.
jaboticabas have not been given fertilizer in Brazil, the belief
prevailing that it might be prejudicial rather than beneficial because
of the sensitivity of the root system. Some agronomists have advocated
digging a series of pits around the base of the tree and filling them
with organic matter enriched with 1 part ammonium sulfate, 2 parts
superphosphate, and 1 part potassium chlorate. The pits store and
gradually release the nutrients and the water from the fall rains.
1978, E.A. Ackerman of the Rare Fruit Council International, Inc.,
reported on fertilizer experiments with 63 one-year-old and 48 two- and
three-year-old seedlings in containers. Better growth was obtained with
plants in a mixture of equal amounts of acid sandy muck, vermiculite,
and peat, given feedings of 32 g of 14-14-14 slow-release fertilizer
(Osmocote), roughly every 2 1/2 months, and 3 gallons (11.4 liters) of
well water (pH 7.20) by a drip system every 2 days over a period of 18
months, than plants given other treatments. The addition of chelated
iron was of no advantage; chelated zinc retarded growth rate, chelated
manganese stopped growth and caused defoliation. Abundant water was
found to be essential to survival. Irrigation to promote flowering in
the dry season is recommended in Brazil to avoid the detrimental
effects of flowering in the rainy season.
time of fruiting varies with the species and/or cultivar and, of
course, the locale. In Rio de Janeiro, M. cauliflora fruits in May and
M. jaboticaba in September. If the trees are heavily irrigated in the
dry season, they may bear several crops a year. Trees in southern
Florida usually produce 2 crops a year.
Harvesting and Packing
Brazil, jaboticabas harvested in the interior are shipped crudely in
second-hand wooden boxes to urban markets. The toughness of the skin
prevents serious bruising if the boxes are handled with some care.
Jaboticabas, once harvested, ferment quickly at ordinary temperatures.
Pests and Diseases
the jaboticaba blooms during a period of drought, many flowers
desiccate. If blooming occurs during heavy rains, many flowers will be
affected by rust caused by a fungus. The variety 'Sabará' is
particularly susceptible to attacks of rust on the flowers and fruits.
This is the most serious disease of the jaboticaba in Brazil. The
initial signs are circular spots, at first yellow then dark-brown.
birds are very troublesome to jaboticaba growers in Brazil. To protect
the crop, double-folded newspaper pages are placed around individual
clusters and tied at the top. If birds are very aggressive, or if there
are high winds, the paper must be secured with string at the bottom
also. To facilitate this operation, it may be necessary in winter or
early spring to do some pruning to make it easier to climb the trees
and this will result in protecting a larger portion of the crop.
reducing the number of fruits has the effect of increasing the size of
those that remain. In Florida, raccoons and opossums make raids on
Plate LI: JABOTICABA, Myrciaria cauliflora
are mostly eaten out-of-hand in South America. By squeezing the fruit
between the thumb and forefinger, one can cause the skin to split and
the pulp to slip into the mouth. The plant explorers, Dorsett, Shamel
and Popenoe, wrote that children in Brazil spend hours "searching out
and devouring the ripe fruits." Boys swallow the seeds with the pulp,
but, properly, the seeds should be discarded.
The fruits are
often used for making jelly and marmalade, with the addition of pectin.
It has been recommended that the skin be removed from at least half the
fruits to avoid a strong tannin flavor. In view of the undesirability
of tannin in the diet, it would be better to peel most of them. The
same should apply to the preparation of juice for beverage purposes,
fresh or fermented. The aborigines made wine of the jaboticabas, and
wine is still made to a limited extent in Brazil.
|Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
*Analyses made in 1955 at the Laboratories FIM de Nutricion, Havana, Cuba.
**Others have shown 30.7 mg.
quantity consumption of the skins should be avoided because of the high
tannin content, inasmuch as tannin is antinutrient and carcinogenic if
intake is frequent and over a long period of time.
astringent decoction of the sun-dried skins is prescribed in Brazil as
a treatment for hemoptysis, asthma, diarrhea and dysentery; also as a
gargle for chronic inflammation of the tonsils. Such use also may lead
to excessive consumption of tannin.
Last updated: 1/15/115 by ch