Jaboticabas. Jaboticaba flowers. Spacer.
Jaboticaba Tree with fruit (left), Jaboticaba flowers (cauliflorus) right.

Jaboticaba, also called Brazilian Grape

Plinia (Myrciaria) cauliflora

Origin:

Brazil and areas of Bolivia, Paraguay and north east Argentina.

Climate:

Its natural range is in latitudes from about 32 to 16 degrees south, elevations up to 1000m, average precipitation of >1200mm pa and mean annual temperatures of 22-25°C. It can survive slight frost but growth will slow with cooler temperatures. Heavy rain may cause it to shed leaves, but it will survive waterlogging.

Plant Description:

The tree is a handsome, slow-growing evergreen tree that can reach 10 to 12m in good conditions. The bark peels off in small patches. The leaves are small, reddish when young and turning glossy green with maturity. There is also a large-leafed variety with leaves up to 6cm. Branches tend to develop close to the ground and can become bushy.

Relatives:

Myrtaceae Family, which also includes many Eugenias and Syzygiums, guavas, feijoa and Ceylon hill gooseberry.

Soils:

A deep, rich, well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 is recommended for best growth. But it is widely adaptable and will grow satisfactorily even on alkaline beach-sand type soils, as long as it is tended and irrigated.

Propagation:

Seeds come reasonably true but are recalcitrant. Some are polyembryonic. Grafting and inarching are used to propagate varieties with desired characteristics. A method of growing large cuttings is described in The Archives of The Rare Fruit Council of Australia (see Links)

Cultivars:

Younghans, FJI, and Whitman were early importations

Flowering and Pollination:

Cauliflorous inflorescences occur in racemose clusters of 2-4 on short pedicels. Individual flowers have 4 petals and about 60 stamens. They are white and highly perfumed. If it is given sufficient water, it will flower frequently. Pollination is by bees and other insects.

Cultivation:

Needs ample water at all times, irrigation in the top 25-50mm as the root system is shallow. Keep well mulched.

Wind Tolerance:

Good, but they cannot withstand much salt wind and so should be protected if close to the ocean.

Pruning:

Thin the bushy interior, and keep the plant to a reasonable size. If fruit set is very heavy, fruit thinning will increase remaining fruit size.

The Fruit:

The fruit is a thick-skinned berry and typically measures 3–4 cm in diameter, resembling a grape. It has a thick, purple, astringent skin that encases a sweet, white or pink gelatinous flesh. There are one to four large seeds, which vary in shape depending on the species. The flesh is tightly attached to the seed. Flavour is "excellent" with a Brix of 17.5, plus it has a reasonable level of vitamin C.

Fruit Production and Harvesting:

A slow-growing plant, seedlings may begin flowering and fruiting at 5 or 6 years or more. Vegetatively propagated trees might begin at about 4 years. The fruits take about 6 weeks from bud to green fruit, turning maroon, then black and then shiny black.

Fruit Uses:

Jaboticabas are eaten as a table fruit, often with skin on, but large quantities of skin should not be eaten because of tannins. They are used in jellies, juices and wine-making.

Pests and Diseases:

Fruit flies may not be a problem because of the thick skin, but birds love the ripe fruits.

Comments:

As an attractive, compact plant that provides a steady supply of tasty family fruit on even the smallest suburban block, it has much to recommend it. It is suitable for growing in containers.