|Surinam Cherry, Pitanga - Eugenia uniflora|
Leaves and flower buds
Flower buds and young red leaves
New red leaf growth, flowers and buds
Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga) fruiting habit. Lanai City, Lanai, Hawaii.
Eugenia uniflora [Surinam Cherry, Brazilian Cherry, Pitanga]
Natural growth habit
Trained as a tree
Caribbean fruit fly
Surinam cherry, Brazilian cherry, Cayenne cherry, pitanga, Florida cherry; in Spanish it is generally cereza de cayena; in Venezuela pendanga ; in El Salvador: guinda; in Argentina ñanga-piré ; in Colombia: cereza quadrada; in Guadeloupe and Martinique: 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 3
Eugenia michelii Lam., Stenocalyx michelii Berg, Plinia rubra Vell.
Native of Surinam, Guyana, French Guiana, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay 2
USDA hardiness zones
9b through 11
Fruit; superior hedge; container or above-ground planter; trained as a standard; recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway; border 1
8-20 ft (2.44-6.1 m)
5-15 ft (1.52-4.57 m)
Natural habit of the plant is an upright spreading form, similar to Crape Myrtle 1
Tan-colored, thin, peeling bark and multiple stems; no thorns 1
Fragrant; less than 2 in. (5.08 cm), purple or red, ovate, opposite/subopposite
White, fragrant, spring
Round, fleshy, orange with ribs, under .5"; develops and ripen quickly, only 3 weeks after the flowers open 3
May-June; may fruit most of the year
Full sun-partial shade
Alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam 1
Aerosol salt tolerance
Soil salt tolerance
22º F (-5.56º C)
Space from two to five feet apart to form a hedge or screen planting 1
Usually not a problem
Invasive potential *
UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas has placed Eugenia uniflora on the Invasive list for south Florida; homeowners should no longer plant Surinam cherry; if you have any shrubs in your yard, consider removing them to help curb their spread 2
No serious pests are normally seen on the plant
The 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 3
Eugenia uniflora Surinam Cherry from the University of Florida pdf
Surinam Cherry from Julia Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climates
Surinam Cherry from the University of Hawaii's publication Twelve Fruits with Potential Value-Added and Culinary Uses
Surinam Cherry is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest. The plant is native from Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana to southern Brazil and to northern, eastern and central Uruguay. 1
It was introduced as an ornamental and edible fruit before 1931 in Florida. By 1961 it was widely planted in central and south Florida, especially for hedges. A decade later was seen escaping cultivation and invading hammocks in south-central and south Florida. In 1982 it became a target of eradication in southern Florida. It is now reported in 20 wildlife areas as well, and threatening rare scrub habitat. Thus, by eating the fruit and destroying the seeds you are helping the environment. 2
Surinam Cherry is an excellent shrub for screens or hedges, with smooth, shiny, aromatic leaves which are bright red when young. This lends a reddish cast to a clipped hedge during the growing season. The small thin leaves allow the plant to be sheared easily, and it is often used as a hedge. The plant remains dense all the way to the ground if the top of the hedge is clipped so it stays slightly narrower than the bottom. The small, fragrant, white flowers are followed by one-inch diameter, tasty, ribbed, red berries which are unusually high in
vitamin C. 1
Fig. 20. Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga); habit in Laysan albatross colony. Cable Company buildings Sand Island, Midway Atoll
Fig. 21. Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga) seedling. John Prince Park Lake Worth, Florida
Young leaves are notably pink to bronze or dark red, turning shiny dark green above, paler below when mature but turning red in cold, dry weather. Leaves are opposite, simple, ovate or narrowly ovate to lanceolate, 2.5-6(-8) cm long and 1.5-3 cm wide, with 7-9 pairs of lateral veins and margins entire or slightly and irregularly wavy. Leaf bases are rounded or slightly cordate, apex obtuse to shortly acuminate, glabrous, glossy, and pellucidly dotted. Petioles are 1-3 mm long. 5
Fig. 4. Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga) leaves. Kula Ace Hardware and Nursery, Maui, Hawaii.
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. 3
Fig. 9. Leaves and flower buds
Fig. 10. Flowers and new red foliage growth
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. 3
"The Surinam cherry is not a cherry nor is it exclusively from Surinam. It’s also not from Florida but it’s called the Florida Cherry because it’s naturalized throughout the state and real sweet cherries don’t grow well there. I will freely admit these little red pumpkins are an acquired taste because most folks are expecting some kind of cherry taste and they don’t have that. No matter how ripe, there is a resinous quality. To be blunt, you either like them or you definitely do not. More so, they must be picked when absolutely ripe or they are a very unpleasant edible experience." More...
Fig. 14. Black variety: different stages of ripeness
Fig. 15. Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga) Branch with flower and fruit. Haiku, Maui, Hawaii
Fig. 16. "Eugenia uniflora. It is a plant in the family Myrtaceae, native to tropical America. Known as Pitanga throughout Brazil, and also Surinam Cherry, Brazilian Cherry, or Cayenne Cherry. The fruit is high in vitamin C."
There are 2 distinct types: the common bright-red and the rarer dark-crimson to nearly black. The deep red, almost black fruited varieties produce sweeter fruit without that tart (resinous) aftertaste that is specific for Surinam Cherry. 3
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 fall rains.
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. 3
Due to recalcitrant nature of the seeds, they have a short viable life, can not be dried well and can not withstand low temperatures. Seeds remain viable for not much longer than a month and germinate in 3 to 4 weeks. Red type and black type forms usually come true to seed.
Although usually grown from seed, grafting of plants that bear superior fruit occurs in countries where the fruit is commercially cultivated (e.g., Brazil and India). 4
Successful air-layering is also reported. Numerous seedlings are often found under existing trees, and the small ones can be easily transplanted. Some seedlings will produce fruit in 2–3 years, while others will produce in 5–6 years. 4
Fig. 24. "I was working on a research project with Dr. John Griffis and other faculty at UH, on propagating techniques for Surinam Cherry (Eugenia uniflora). Here, I'm veneer grafting a plant. This method turned out to be quite successful."
They are most productive if unpruned, but still produce a great many fruits when close-clipped in hedges. 3
Pruning dead wood and shaping or lowering the tree to facilitate harvesting is advisable, usually after the sixth or seventh year of growth. 4
Quarterly feeding with a complete fertilizer formula promotes fruiting. 3
The plant responds quickly to irrigation, the fruit rapidly becoming larger and sweeter in flavor after a good watering. 3
Surinam Cherry is bothered by fruit flies (Fig. 15), scale and caterpillars.
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. 3
The use of insecticidal soap or neem oil sprays, and proper care of the tree, help to combat these diseases.
Children 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. 3
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. 3
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. 3
The 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 no nectar. 3
Surinam 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 scientific name is Eugenia uniflora. Eugenia is named for Prince Eugene of Savoy, 1663-1736, a patron of botany and horticulture. He was a great general and spent most of his life fighting in wars, constantly. Apparently it agreed with him. When he died in his sleep at age 72 he was, at the time, the richest man in the world… if it wasn’t for a fruit would we ever hear of him? Uniflora is from Latin unus, one or single and folium, to bloom, read one leaved. 2
Fig. 25. Distribution Map
Caribbean Fruit Fly, Anastrepha suspensa (Loew) (Insecta: Diptera: Tephritidae) from the University of Florida pdf 8 pages
The UF/IFAS Assessment of Nonnative Plants in Florida's Natural Areas: History, Purpose, and Use from the University of Florida pdf 6 pagesSurinam Cherry Botanical Art
List of Growers and Vendors
1 Guilman, Edward F. "Eugenia Uniflora Surinam Cherry." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is FPS-202, 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 June 2011. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
2 Deane, Green . "Surinam Cherries: You’ll love ‘em or hate ‘em." eattheweeds.com. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
3 Morton, J. "Surinam Cherry". hort.purdue.edu.
Fruits of warm climates, p. 386-388. 1987. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 5,12,17 Kwan. Eugenia uniflora[Surinam Cherry, Brazilian Cherry, Pitanga]. 2010. natureloveyou.sg. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Fig. 6,9 Starr, Forest and Kim. Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga) flower buds and young red leaves. 2008. Cable Company buildings Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 3.0). Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 10 Starr, Forest and Kim. Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga) flowers and leaves. 2008. Cable Company buildings Sand Island, Midway Atoll. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 3.0). Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 7 Carr, Gerald,D. Eugenia uniflora, Myrtaceae. N.d. botany.hawaii.edu. University of Hawaii, Botany Department, Manoa Campus Plants. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 11 MR. Eugenia uniflora. N.d. toptropicals.com. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 15 Starr, Forest and Kim. Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga). Branch with flower and fruit. Haiku, Maui, Hawaii. 2001. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 3.0). Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Fig. 20 Starr, Forest and Kim. Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry, pitanga); habit in Laysan albatross colony. Cable Company buildings Sand Island, Midway Atoll. 2008. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 3.0). Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Fig. 23 Stang, David. Eugenia uniflora. 2006. commons.wikimedia.org. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 25 Eugenia uniflora Distribution Map. N.d. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa. florida.plantatlas.usf.edu. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Fig. 27 Caribbean fruit fly. N.d. Division of Plant Industry. edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Web. 23 Jan.
** Information provided is not intended to be used as a guide for treatment of medical conditions.
Published 22 Jan. 2015 LR. Last update 13 Feb. 2017 LR