Barbados Cherry, Acerola - Malpighia punicifolia, Malpighia glabra
Fruit Credit: Kwan ©

Barbados Cherries: a Mother's Day Gift that Lasts from the University of Florida Okeechobee Extension

Malpighia glabra Barbados Cherry from the University of Florida pdf

Barbados Cherry from Julia Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climate

Barbados Cherry from the University of Florida Palm Beach County Extension

Barbados Cherry from the California Rare Fruit Growers Inc.

Acerola Cherry from the Sub-Tropical Fruit Club of Qld, Inc.

USDA Nutrient Content pdf

Fig. 1


Other Information

Common Names: Barbados Cherry, West Indian Cherry, Cereza, Cerisier, Semeruco

Family: Malpighiaceae

Height: 10-12'
Spread: 10-15'
Flower: pink, summer
Fruit: round, red, fleshy, .5-1"
Leaf: evergreen, 2-4", opposite, lanceolate
Season: May-Nov. Sparsely most of the year
Damage temp. 30F
PH preference: 5.5-6.5
USDA zones: 9b-11
Lignt Requirement: Part sun or semi-shade
Soil tolerances: slightly alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam

Drought tolerance: high
Plant Spacing: 36-60"
Pests: nematodes, whiteflies, scale, and plant bugs, which will attack and deform the fruit


In a work by Julia F. Morton that was entitled ‘Fruits of warm climates’, it was stated that this fruit tree’s correct botanical name should

be Malpighia punicifolia and not Malpighia glabra. Morton stated that latter botanical name refers to a wild relative of the Barbados cherry that bears smaller and pointed leaves, and produces smaller flowers and fruits. However, in Plant Resources of Southeast Asia (PROSEA), both names are synonymous and used to refer to the same plant.


Flower bud Inflorescense close-up Flower
Fig. 2 Fig. 3 Fig. 4
Inflorescense Leaves Underside of Leaf
Fig. 5 Fig. 6 Fig. 7
Immature fruit Grown as a bush 'Florida Sweet' Showing the flesh
Fig. 8 Fig. 9

Fig. 10

'Florida Sweet'

Fig. 11

'Florida Sweet'

Barbados Cherries Bowl of Barbados cherries Trunk habit

Fig. 12

'Florida Sweet'

Fig. 13 Fig. 14

Origin: The Barbados cherry is native to the Lesser Antilles from St. Croix to Trinidad, also Curacao and Margarita and neighboring northern South America as far south as Brazil. It has become naturalized in Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico after cultivation, and is commonly grown in dooryards in the Bahamas and Bermuda, and to some extent in Central and South America. 2

Description:Trained to numerous multi-trunks, it can be used as a small accent tree just as Japanese ligustrum is used. The multi-trunks rise sinuously up through the crown creating a sculptured specimen well-suited for placing near a patio, deck or entry way to attract attention. It looks great lighted at night from below the tree. Barbados cherry develops into a thick, rounded canopy of fairly delicate foliage. Plant 5 to 6 feet apart for a mass planting or to develop a tall, thick screen. 1

Planting: Acerola grows well in a wide variety of soils, provided they are well drained and are not infested with nematodes. Choose sites with good water drainage, as this plant does not like wet feet. Salt tolerance for this plant is moderate - it will not do well if planted in ocean-front breezes or irrigated with brackish water. New plants are best set out in spring, just before the rainy season. Specimen trees in home plantings should be allowed at least 15 feet of growing room. 3

Culture: Fertilize trees with a general-purpose fertilizer every three to four months to help promote good growth and fruit production. Most Barbados cherries can take small amounts of salt spray, but are not considered highly salt-tolerant for oceanfront plantings. During periods of drought, Barbados cherries will benefit from heavy mulching, since they have very shallow roots which easily dry out. Weekly irrigations are suggested during the spring dry season to help promote heavier fruiting. 4

Flowers: Small pink flowers appear periodically from April to October and are followed about one month later by bright red, tart-tasting, 1-inch fruits which are extremely high in vitamin C. It is commonly available in nurseries throughout south Florida. 1

Season: In Florida, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Hawaii the fruiting season varies with the weather. There may be a spring crop ripening in May and then successive small crops off and on until December, but sometimes, if spring rains are lacking, there may be no fruits at all until December and then a heavy crop. 2


Propagation: Barbados cherry is usually propagated by air layering (marcottage) or by hardwood cuttings. Air layering is best done during spring and summer while the plants are growing and requires 6 to 8 weeks for rooting. Leafy hardwood cuttings from healthy plants root within 2 months. Indolebutyric acid will help to induce rooting. It can also be propagated by side veneer or cleft grafts on young seedlings or on trees which produce inferior fruit. 5

Varieties: Barbados cherry seedlings are quite variable and fruit quality is usually not as good as desired. A number of improved selections have been developed. Homeowners should look for improved clones such as `Florida Sweet' and `B-17'. The latter is an acid selection with much larger fruit.


Diseases and Pests

The major pest in Florida is the Caribbean fruit fly, Anastrepha suspensa, which seems to attack all but very sour fruits and the larvae are commonly found inside. 2

Few diseases have been reported. However, in Florida, there are cases of anthracnose caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, and leafspotting by the fungus, Cercospora bunchosiae, is a serious malady in Florida, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. 2

A serious pest of the Barbados cherry is the root-knot nematode which weakens the plant, causing it to drop leaves and display symptoms of malnutrition. Severe infestations inhibit growth and fruit production. This nematode is a more serious problem in sandy soils than in the alkaline, rockland soils. It is not a problem in marl or clay soils. Preventive measures include use of sterilized soil in propagation, fumigation of the planting site and heavy mulching around the tree. 5

Frequently, the fruit is attacked by plant bugs which sting the fruit, giving it a dimpled appearance. This may result in off flavors and reduced fruit size. There is no practical control for this pest. Other insects which attack the tree include various scale insects, whiteflies, aphids and caterpillars. 5

Cercospora leaf spot is the only disease problem on Barbados cherry of much concern in Florida where its occurrence is associated with high humidity. The spots are roughly circular, slightly sunken, dark brown lesions with gray centers and are surrounded by a yellow halo. The lesions occur on both leaf surfaces and are typically larger on young leaves than on mature ones. 5

List of Growers and Vendors



1 Gilman, Edward F. "Malpighia glabra Barbados Cherry." This document is FPS-390, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date October 1999. Revised May 2007. Reviewed Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.

2 Morton, J. "Barbados Cherry." Fruits of warm climates, p. 204-207. 1987. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.

3 Culbert, Dan. "Barbados Cherry - A Mother's Gift That Lasts." Okeechobee News Articles. 10 May 1998. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

4 Joyner, Gene. "Barbados Cherry". Palm Beach County Extension Service. N.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

5 Phillips, R.L. "Barbados  Cherry." This document is FC28, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date Apr. 1994. Reviewed Nov. 2005. (Archived). Web. 21 Jan. 2015.


Fig. 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,14 Kwan. Malpighia glabra [Acerola, Barbados Cherry]. 2009. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

Fig. 5,9,13 Malpighia glabra . N.d. Top Tropicals Tropical Plant Catalog. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

Fig. 10,11,12 Maguire, Ian. Malpighia glabra L., Barbados cherry cv. Florida Sweet. 2002.  From the Tropical Fruit Photography Picture Archive. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

Published 20 Jan. 2015 LR. Updated 6 Mar. 2015 LR

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