Plinia cauliflora, the Brazilian grapetree, jaboticaba or jabuticaba, is a tree in the family Myrtaceae, native to the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Goiás and São Paulo in Brazil. Related species in the genus Myrciaria, often referred to by the same common names, are native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia. The tree is known for its purplish-black, white-pulped fruits which grow directly on the trunk; they can be eaten raw or be used to make jellies, jams, juice or wine.
The name jabuticaba, derived from the Tupi word jaboti/jabuti (tortoise) + caba (place), meaning "the place where tortoises are found". The name has also been interpreted to mean 'like turtle fat', referring to the fruit's white pulp.
The tree prefers moist, rich, lightly acidic soil. It is widely adaptable, however, and grows satisfactorily even on alkaline beach-sand type soils, so long as it is tended and irrigated. Its flowers are white and grow directly from its trunk in a cauliflorous habit. In its native habitat Jaboticabas may flower and fruit 5-6 times throughout the year. Jabuticaba are tropical to subtropical plants and can tolerate mild, brief frosts, not below 26°F (-3°C).
The fruit is a thick-skinned berry and typically measures 3–4 cm in diameter. The fruit resembles a slip-skin grape. It has a thick, purple, astringent skin that encases a sweet, white or rosy pink gelatinous flesh. Embedded within the flesh are one to four large seeds, which vary in shape depending on the species. Jabuticaba seeds are recalcitrant and they become unviable within 10 days when stored at room temperature.
Production and cultivation
Commercial cultivation of the fruit in the Northern Hemisphere is more restricted by slow growth and the short shelf-life of fruit than by temperature requirements. Grafted plants may bear fruit in five years, while seed-grown trees may take 10 to 20 years to bear fruit.
Jabuticabas are fairly adaptable to various kinds of growing conditions, tolerating sand or rich topsoil. They are intolerant of salty soils or salt spray. They are tolerant of mild drought, though fruit production may be reduced, and irrigation will be required in extended or severe droughts.
Jabuticabas are vulnerable to the rust, puccinia psidii. particularly when the tree flowers during heavy rain. Other important diseases that affect jabuticabas are canker (colletotrichum gloeosporioides), dieback (rosellinia), and fruit rot (botrytis cinerea).
Common in Brazilian markets, jabuticabas are largely eaten fresh. Fruit may begin to ferment 3 to 4 days after harvest, so it is often used to make jams, tarts, strong wines, and liqueurs. Due to the short shelf-life, fresh jabuticaba fruit is rare in markets outside areas of cultivation.
Their slow growth and small size when immature make jabuticabas popular as bonsai or container ornamental plants in temperate regions. It is a widely used bonsai species in Taiwan and parts of the Caribbean.
There are a number of similar species of plant in the family Myrtaceae that are known by the common name Jabuticaba.
- Myrciaria glazioviana (jabuticaba amarela or yellow jabuticaba)
- Myrciaria tenella (jabuticaba macia or soft jabuticaba)
- Plinia coronata (jabuticaba coroada or king jabuticaba)
- Plinia grandifolia (jabuticaba graúda or large jabuticaba)
- Plinia martinellii (jabuticabinha da mata or little forest jabuticaba)
- Plinia oblongata (jabuticaba azeda or sour jabuticaba)
- Plinia peruviana (jabuticaba cabinho or small stemmed jabuticaba)
- Plinia phitrantha (jabuticaba branca or white jabuticaba)
- Plinia rivularis (jabuticaba de cacho or bunched jabuticaba)
- Plinia spirito-santensis (jabuticaba peluda de cruz, hairy cross jaboticaba, or 'Grimal' in the USA).
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- Jaboticaba California Rare Fruit Growers.