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Growing Surinam Cherry / Brazilian 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 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, turning bright red or almost red-black when fully ripe. Thin skin, orange-red flesh, very juicy; sour to sweet, with a touch of resin and slight bitterness. Dark colored fruit varieties are sweeter and contain little to no resin. The non-cherry flavor is either loved or hated. Fruit size, one-half to two inches, depends on water. Contains one to three seeds.
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.
Stems: Slender, containing resinous sap.
Roots: Deep. Invasive in wet climates.
Cultivars of Note:
The species appears as two varieties: the common one producing bright-red fruit, and the rarer one producing red-black fruit which have less resin and are sweeter.
'Black Star' Fruit are black when fully ripe. USDA hardiness 10-11.
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.
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 6.6-7.5 (neutral). Not particular about soil type otherwise. Possibly slightly salt tolerant.
Fertilize: Use compost applied every month or two except in winter. Chemical fertilizers are undesirable in dry, desert regions.
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: Remove any dead wood and, after 6-7 years, shape to improve harvest or use as a screen. 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 usually 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.

Also known as Cayenne Cherry.

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