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Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective. 1994. J.E. Hernándo Bermejo and J. León (eds.). Plant Production and Protection Series No. 26. FAO, Rome, Italy. p. 229-237.

Subtropical Myrtaceae

The authors of this chapter are D. Giacometti and E. Lleras (CENARGEN/EMBRAPA, Brasilia, Brazil).


(Myrciaria spp.)

Botanical names: Myrciaria cauliflora Berg., M. jaboticaba Berg., M. trunciflora Berg.

Family: Myrtaceae

Common names. English: jaboticaba; Spanish: jaboticaba; Portuguese: jaboticatuba sabará, jaboticaba murta, jaboti-catuba, jaboticatuba grande, jaboticaba olho-de-boi, jaboticaba-de-cabinho (Brazil)

Among the Myrtaceae, various species of the genera Psidium Eugenia,. Feijoa, Myrciaria, Campomanesia and Paivaea stand out which are native plants of neotropical flora and produce fruit of commercial value. Jaboticaba, which has been cultivated in Brazil since pre-Columbian times and is much in demand in the centre and south of the country, is a promising fruit of this family. It is grown in small commercial gardens of 500 to 1000 trees and in domestic gardens.


Jaboticaba is eaten fresh and is known on account of its outstanding qualities, having an abundance of juice and a particularly sweet flavour. It is used industrially for jellies and to prepare domestic liqueurs and wines. It must be consumed immediately after harvesting, since it does not keep well at ambient temperature and lasts no more than three days.

Botanical description

The jaboticaba is a tree of medium habit, not exceeding 12 m in height, with a voluminous and symmetrical crown, one or more trunks and many branches. The leaves are ovate or lanceolate, 5 x 2.5 cm, smooth and shiny. The flowers occur in short racemes which emerge from the trunk, from the ground and on the main branches; there are four white petals and numerous long stamens.

The fruit is a spherical berry, 2 cm in diameter in the Sabará variety and 3 cm in the Jaboticatuba. It is grouped in racemes of three to seven, is red initially and shiny black when ripe. Sabará is the best variety; it produces polyembryonic seeds and the majority of the embryos are apomictic. while Jaboticatuba is monoembryonic with zygotic embryos. During flowering in spring, particularly in areas with dry winters, the tree flowers abundantly with the first rainfall, giving the impression that the trunk is covered with snow.

Figure 26. A) Jaboticaba (Myrciaria spp.); A1 ) cross section of the fruit; B) arazá (Eugenia stipitata)

Ecology and phytogeography

As a subtropical, deciduous species, jaboticaba is frost-tolerant. In tropical conditions it does not flower as abundantly as in the areas where the winter is cold and dry. Flowering can be brought forward with irrigation, but the flower buds must already be developed. From ten to 20 days elapse between flowering and fruiting. Fruiting is very short and harvesting does not exceed two weeks.

The species is distributed from lat. 21°S in the state of Minas Gerais to Rio Grande do Sul, at lat. 30°S, always at altitudes higher than 500 m. It grows best in groups, on deep, acid and fertile soils. However, there are wild populations which have withstood the felling of forests in Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.

Genetic diversity

The most widespread species, Myrciaria cauliflora, produces apomictic embryos and, for this reason, shows very little genetic variability, while the zygotic species, Jaboticatuba, shows much variation but is a much rarer plant. Other Myrciaria species are little known.

Propagation and cultivation techniques

The preferred method of propagating jaboticaba is from the seeds, which are recalcitrant and not resistant to desiccation. They are sown 10 cm apart in a fertile seed bed, with 30 cm between the rows. where they remain for one year. When they are 10 to 15 cm high, they are transplanted to the nursery with a rootball and spaced 1 m apart with 2 m between rows. They stay in the nursery from three to five years and, when they reach 1.5 m in height, are planted out in the garden with the rootball measuring 60 cm in diameter. The plant's growth is slow. It is planted out at 6 x 6 m or 6 x 4 m, and it does not matter if the crowns are close together.

Various vegetative propagation techniques are used to obtain earlier plants, mainly through root cuttings, layering and grafts. However, the tree's development is always slow. In this species it is advantageous to have the greatest area of trunk and branches from which the fruit emerges. Since early production delays the plant's development, the only advantage of vegetative reproduction would be the possibility of planting at a greater density, such as 4 x 2 m.

Prospects for improvement

There is no advantage in the genetic improvement of jaboticaba. However, crossing Jaboticatuba. which produces large fruit and zygotic embryos, with the cultivar Sabará, which is of better quality but produces smaller fruit could be recommended. As 100 percent of hybrids would be obtained, it would eventually be possible to obtain selections of jaboticaba bearing large fruit of better quality.


(Eugenia stipitata)

Botanical name: Eugenia stipitata McVaugh

Family: Myrtaceae

Common names. English: arazá; Spanish: arazá (Peru); Portuguese: araça-boi (Brazil)

Eugenia stipitata includes two subspecies: stipitata, from the state of Acre in Brazil, and so/ via, which is more widely distributed from the basin of the Ucayali River in Peru. The latter seems to have been semi-domesticated in western Amazonia, although it may have originated in the southeastern portion of Amazonia. The arazá must have undergone a long process of selection by the Amerindian communities, as can be deduced from the large size of the fruit which, within the cultivated material, can be as large as 12 cm in diameter and 740 g in weight, compared with the wild populations which do not exceed 7 cm in diameter and 30 g in weight.

The species is still in the full process of domestication. The two institutions which have worked most on this fruit are INIAP's experimental station of San Roque in Iquitos, Peru, and INPA in Manaus, Brazil.

Today, the araza is cultivated on small properties throughout the basin of the Solimoes (Alto Amazonas), not as a commercial crop but as part of the complex mosaic of crops characteristic of the traditional agriculture of the region. It is relatively common on the town markets of Tefe, which is midway between Manaus and Iquitos.

Uses and nutritional value

Arazá is used to make juices, soft drinks, ice-cream. preserves and desserts. The fruit is rarely eaten raw because of its acidity (pH 2.4 in the case of the juice). Unlike camucamu (Myrciaria dubia), more than 20 percent of whose fresh weight is represented by 2 percent of ascorbic acid. arazá's potential is due to its intrinsic characteristics as a fruit: pleasant flavour, colour, texture and smell.

The nutritional value of araza is very similar to that of oranges, with the exception of the vitamin C content which is more than double in araza.

Botanical description

The arazá is a shrub or small tree which grows up to 2.5 m. with a fair degree of branching from the base. The leaves are simple, opposite, elliptical to slightly oval and measure 6 to 18 x 3.5 to 9.5 cm. The apex is acuminate, the base rounded to subcordate and the primary and secondary nervations are fairly evident. The inflorescences are in axillary racemes, usually with two to five flowers which are 1 cm wide and pedicillate, have four rounded sepals and five white, oval petals. There are numerous stamens and an ovary with three or tour locules. The fruit is a subspherical berry, reaching 12 cm in diameter and weighing 750 g w hen ripe; the flesh is yellow and thin; the skin is shiny. velvety and yellow, with few seeds which are oblong and measure up to 2.5 cm.

The subspecies stipitata has fewer stamens and an arboreal habit, whereas the subspecies sororia has a shrub habit and has more stamens.

Ecology and phytogeography

The arazá is a species of semi-open or open areas. Most of the wild populations are found on old, non-floodable terraces in tropical, white, highly leached podzolic soils, which are distributed specifically within the area between the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers and where the Amazon begins and as far as Iquitos (ssp. sororia). The camucamu and arazá have sclerophyllous leaves, which makes them very efficient in absorbing nutrients and utilizing water.

It is not surprising that the araza can produce between 20 and 30 tonnes of fruit per hectare annually without any great selection or improvement effort and that, under cultivation on Amazonian terraces, it is more productive than the camucamu.

Although there are no detailed studies on its reproductive system, on the basis of its floral morphology, the species must be allogamous with optional autogamy, since rates of autogamy of around 2 percent are recorded. This would enable it both to maintain a high evolutionary potential and have some degree of adaptation to its environment.

The species is harvested several times a year. If a comparison is made of the production curves of flowers and fruit with precipitation during the same period, it will be seen that they coincide fairly well with an out-of-phase period of approximately one month, which suggests that the water conditions serve to promote the phenological processes.

Genetic diversity

No data are available on the genetic variability of the arazá. The tact that it shows optional allogamy suggests that it has a high degree of heterozygosity which corresponds to what is expected of the majority of the species of the region.

Dispersal over a long distance is probably effected by birds and possibly fruit-bats, with very variable dispersal distances, thus allowing an exchange of genes between distant populations. There is likely to be a bigger difference within one and the same population than between populations. However, the fact that two subspecies exist in relatively restricted areas suggests that dispersal over a long distance is not very effective and that there are barriers to its distribution which are difficult to explain from the ecological point of view. Genetic variability does not seem to be in danger. However, there are only two collections of germplasm: that of San Roque, with 50 accessions, and that of INPA, with five accessions.

Cultivation practices

Seed beds. The seeds are recalcitrant and, after 40 days in cold storage, they lose more than 70 percent of their viability. Consequently, seed beds must be established in the first five days after the seeds have been harvested.

The seed beds are kept completely in the shade: the seeds are planted 2 cm apart and only lightly covered, as greater coverings inhibit germination. As a seed bed, partly decomposed softwood is recommended while the use of earth is not advised. Germination is not uniform and may take up to 80 days; in the conditions described, the germination rate may reach around 100 percent.

Nurseries. The seedlings are kept in the seed bed until they reach a height of 7 to 10 cm. They are then transplanted into 6 to 8 kg polyethylene bags filled with a mixture of earth and 10 percent manure. The plants stay in the bags for up to one year: six months in the shade and 6 months in partial shade.

Planting out. After one year, the plants are planted out on their final site. In San Roque, distances of 3 x 3 m have been adopted, with holes measuring 50 cm deep and 30 to 50 cm in diameter. The soil is mixed with 0.50 kg of manure. It is recommended that weeds be eliminated from the planted area each month and organic material added to the soil. Experimental results on fertilization suggest that organic fertilizer with manure is preferable to chemical fertilizers.

In Amazonia, it is recommended that chemical fertilizers not be used since their possible effect on the environment is unknown. In addition, the cost of these applications may make the crop economically unviable. In fertilization trials, chemical fertilizers had no influence on fruit formation (between 20 and 40 percent, average 25 percent) or on the total yield, which justifies not recommending its use in the region.

Prospects for improvement

It is difficult to predict the upper limits of arazá production, as it is still in an early phase of domestication. The genetic base is not known and knowledge about management practices is so limited that it is impossible to make realistic projections. Undoubtedly, under suitable cultivation conditions, its productivity may be somewhat higher than at present while its cultivation in other regions may amply justify chemical fertilization.

There do not appear to be any serious plant health problems. The species suffers heavy attack from the fruit fly, which reduces the normal density of plantings if sophisticated biological control measures are not adopted.

The success of araza as a widespread crop will depend above all on technological developments that facilitate its acceptance on markets outside the region. Any improvement or selection programme will have to involve parameters such as appearance, colour, smell, palatability and resistance of the fruit to transportation and storage.


(Feijoa sellowiana)

Botanical names: Feijoa sellowiana O. Berg, F. sellowiana var. rugosa Mattos

Family: Myrtaceae

Common names: feijoa (throughout the world); English: feijoa (throughout the world), pineapple guava (United States);1 Spanish: guayabo grande, guayabo chico (Uruguay); Portuguese: goiaba serrana, goiaba verde, goiaba abacaxí (Brazil)

1The feijoa is frequently quoted in the literature as "araçá" but this fruit, also from neotropical flora, belongs to the genus Psidium, including many species, among which the guava.

The feijoa is a subtropical fruit. known in southern Brazil, northeastern Argentina, Uruguay and eastern Paraguay since pre-Hispanic times. It has been known on the French Cote d'Azur since 1890. when it was introduced through seeds from Argentina by Professor Edouard Andre of the Versailles School of Horticulture. In 1990, it was introduced into California, where its cultivation has spread. In Uruguay, it has been grown commercially for 50 years. It is grown and greatly valued in New Zealand. In Brazil, studies and the selection of varieties have been carried out but it has never attained any commercial importance.


The fresh fruit is widely consumed because of its characteristic flavour and aroma, which are similar to pineapple. The fleshy petals of its beautiful flowers are also appreciated. In addition, there is a wide variety of industrialized products on the market in the form of paste, jam, crystallized fruits, preserves in syrup and liqueur. The flesh can be used in the soft drinks and ice-cream industries.

Botanical description

The feijoa plant is a shrub or small tree, 3 to 5 m in height and very branching. It has cylindrical trunks which are a reddish ash-grey in colour, with small pieces peeling off from the bark. The leaves are opposite, short petiolate, with lamina that are 2 to 5 cm long by 1 to 3 cm wide, coriaceous and oblong, with a shiny dark-green upper surface and whitish lower surface. It has axillary uniflorous peduncles. The flowers have four fleshy, oval petals which are white on the outside and purple on the inside, with four persistent sepals. There are numerous erect purple stamens. The fruit is oblong or spheroid, 5 to 8 cm long and 3 to 7 cm in diameter. There are smooth or rough varieties of fruit which are green and yellow in colour. The feijoa flowers in spring and the fruit ripens in autumn from March to May in the Southern Hemisphere and from October to December in the Northern Hemisphere. The early varieties ripen in March, while the late varieties do so from April onwards in the Southern Hemisphere.

Figure 27. Feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana) shapes and cross-sections of the fruit

Ecology and phytogeography

The species is widely distributed in the southern part of South America, from lat. 26°S in southern Paraná in Brazil, to lat. 35°S in Uruguay, including northeastern Argentina and southern-central Paraguay. In Brazil there are still wild populations in forests (gallery) and deforested areas on sites at altitudes over 500 m, for which reason it is known as goiaba serrana or "mountain guava". It frequently occurs in the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, in the cima da serra, upper northeastern coast and southwestern serra regions and in Santana do Livramento. At these sites, the summer is hot and rainy and the winter reaches temperatures of 0 to 8°C, sometimes dropping to -4°C.

Genetic diversity

It is a cross-pollinated plant and self-sterility is frequent. However, there are self-fertile selections. When it has been propagated from seed, it displays great genetic variability, both in the wild and in gardens. Variability is shown in the form and habit of the plant and in the characteristics of the fruit. In Uruguay, 11 cultivars are known, prominent among these are: Botali, because of its size—the fruit measures 6.5 x 3.X cm—its pronounced flavour and late ripening; and M-4, which is round, a beautiful reddish yellow colour and extraordinarily sweet. In Brazil, Santa Elisa and Campineira have been bred: the first is of average size. 4.5 x 3.5 cm, smooth, sweet and flavoursome while the second is ridged and also oblong. In California, Coolidge, Superb, Choiseana. Triumph and Hehre are cultivated. In France, André and Besson are of excellent quality.

Cultivation practices

Feijoas are propagated from seed, layering, cutting and grafting. Propagation from seed produces very heterogeneous plants. Consequently, this method is used only in the production of rootstock and in small domestic gardens. The seeds are recalcitrant and are therefore sown as soon as they are collected, either in seed beds, using the conventional technique, or directly into 30 x 20 cm polyethylene bags. They are transplanted into the nursery at a distance of 1 x 0.40 m until they reach a height of 60 to 80 cm, or are grafted with selected varieties. Layering is a tedious method. used for the production of a small number of plants.

Propagation from semi-ligneous, leaf-bearing, terminal shoots is very much to be recommended. They must be 10 to 15 cm long, treated with rooting hormones and placed in glass or plastic frames saturated with moisture. They put out roots in 15 to 20 days. The rooted cuttings are transferred into 30 x 20 cm polyethylene bags in which they remain for one year until they reach a height of 60 to 80 cm, at which stage they are planted in gardens.

Grafting is by a side graft on rootstock existing in the nursery or in polyethylene bags. The technique is known as "Veneer" grafting. When the young plants from a grafted cutting reach 60 to 80 cm in height, they are transplanted into the garden at a distance of 6 x 3 m or 6 x 2 m, which will give 550 to 850 saplings per hectare. With an average production of 1000 fruits per adult tree and fruits weighing 30 to 60 g, these densities produce yields ranging from 16 to 50 tonnes per hectare.

Feijoa fruit is attractive to fruit flies, mainly Anastrepha sp., particularly in places with high temperatures in South America, and Ceratitis capitata in the Mediterranean and in high areas in South America.

The fruit is fairly resistant to transportation. However, for the fresh fruit market it requires special care from harvesting, packaging and cold storage to transportation. In industry it does not require such care, and even fruit that has fallen to the ground can be collected if it is unblemished.

Prospects for improvement

The green colour of the fruit of most of the known varieties is considered a drawback from the marketing point of view because it is not very attractive. For this reason, yellow and red cultivars are sought. Partial or total self-sterility is another problem that affects production. There is a need for self-fertile selections and studies on pollinating compatibility between varieties.

Feijoa cultivation can be expanded through the subtropical regions which do not have harsh winters, but this species needs to be better known, particularly its characteristics and cultivation conditions. The availability of germplasm may contribute to the expansion of this valuable fruit of neotropical flora.


last update Friday, June 12, 1998 by aw