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Growing Surinam Cherry: Eugenia uniflora

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A member of the Myrtle family, the Eugenia genus contains over 1000 species worldwide. Of the South American Eugenia species with edible fruit, Eugenia uniflora is the most adaptable.

Form: A large shrub or small tree.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to moderate.
Mature Size: 8-20' high and 6-15' wide.
Flowers: Long-stalked, in clusters of 1-4 in the leaf axils, four white petals, many long, pale-yellow tipped, white stamens, fragrant. Flowers have abundant pollen but little nectar.
Bloom: Spring and fall for two crops.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: 2-6 years depending on location. Typically 5-6 years.
Fruit: Round, slightly flattened at ends, seven to eight deep ribs, small apical sepals, turning bright red or almost red-black when fully ripe. Thin skin, orange-red flesh, very juicy; unique, non-cherry flavor, tart when partly ripe to sweet when fully ripe, aromatic. Dark colored fruit varieties are sweeter and contain little to no resin. Fruit size, one-half to two inches, depends on water. Contains one to three seeds. Flavor varies from plant to plant when they are grown from seed instead of from cuttings.
Months for fruit to ripen: Three weeks after flowering. Individual fruits ripen at different times and must be harvested once or twice a day. The fruit must not be picked until they fall off the stem easily or they will be resinous and bitter. Pruned bushes can yield 6-8 pounds of fruit per plant. Unpruned plants can yield up to twice that amount.
Storage after harvest: Fruit last one day at room temperature and up to one week refrigerated.
Leaves: Resinous, aromatic, oval to lance shaped, bronze when young, green and glossy at maturity, turning red in cold, dry weather. Dense shade. Aroma of crushed leaves said to repel insects.
Stems: Slender, containing resinous sap. No thorns. Some grafted plants are available.
Roots: Deep. Invasive in wet climates.
Cultivars of Note:
'Black Star' - ripe fruit are black.
'Lolita' - ripe fruit are bright red.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, birds, mammals.
Toxic / Danger: Seeds are very resinous and should not be eaten. Fruit causes diarrhea in dogs. Smell of freshly cut stems can irritate respiratory passages of sensitive individuals.
Origin: East coast of South America.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9b-11. Young plants damaged at 28°F. Older plants hardy to 22°F.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Drought tolerant: No.
Water after becoming established: Twice a week to every 10 days. More water during fruiting increases fruit size and sweetness.
Soil: Well draining, pH 5.6-7.5 (acidic to neutral). Not particular about soil type otherwise. Possibly slightly salt tolerant.
Fertilize: Use an organic fertilizer applied every month or two except in winter.
Mulch: Compost helps retain water and protect against extremes of heat and cold.
Spacing: Grow 2-5' apart for a hedge or screen.
Planting: Can be grown in a container.
First Year Care: Protect from freezes first two years.
Prune: Do not prune until the plant is 6-7 years old, then shape to improve harvest or use as a screen or hedge. Flowering occurs on old growth and at base of new growth.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed or layering. Seed are viable for only one month after harvest, cannot be dried or refrigerated, sprout 3-4 weeks after planting, and may not grow true to parent.
Uses: Hedge or screen, ornamental, edible fruit when very ripe. When seeded, sprinkled with sugar, and refrigerated, the fruit become mild and sweet and can be used like strawberries. They are often made into jam or jelly. The crushed leaves are an insect repellant.

Also known as Cayenne Cherry and Pitanga. Both this tree, and Grumichama (Eugenia brasiliensis), are known as Brazilian Cherry. Invasive in Southern Florida.

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Surinam Cherry: Eugenia uniflora - fruit

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