|Plate XXXIX: CHUPA-CHUPA, Quararibea cordata|
The chupa-chupa tree is fast-growing, erect, to 130 or even 145 ft (40-45 m) high in the wild, though often no more than 40 ft (12 m) in cultivation. It is sometimes buttressed; has stiff branches in tiered whorls of 5; and copious gummy yellow latex. The semi-deciduous, alternate, long-petioled leaves, clustered in rosettes near the ends of the branches, are broadly heart-shaped, normally 6 to 12 in (15-30 cm) long and nearly as wide. Short-stalked, yellowish-white or rose-tinted, 5-petalled flowers, about 1 in (2.5 cm) wide, with 5 conspicuous, protruding stamens and pistil, are borne in masses along the lesser branches and on the trunk. The fruit is rounded, ovoid or elliptic with a prominent, rounded knob at the apex and is capped with a 2- to 5-lobed, velvety, leathery, strongly persistent calyx at the base; 4 to 5 3/4 in (10-14.5 cm) long and to 3 3/16 in (8 cm) wide, and may weigh as much as 28 oz (800 g). The rind is thick, leathery, greenish-brown, and downy. The flesh, orange-yellow, soft, juicy, sweet and of agreeable flavor surrounds 2 to 5 seeds, to 1 1/2 in (4 cm) long and 1 in (2.5 cm) wide, from which long fibers extend through the flesh.
Origin and Distribution
The tree grows wild in lowland rainforests of Peru, Ecuador and adjacent areas of Brazil, especially around the mouth of the Javari River. It is common in the western part of Amazonas, southwestern Venezuela, and in the Cauca and Magdalena Valleys of Colombia. It flourishes and produces especially well near the sea at Tumaco, Colombia. The fruits are plentiful in the markets of Antioquia, Buenaventura and Bogotá, Colombia; Puerto Viejo, Ecuador; the Brazilian towns of Tefé, Esperanca, Sao Paulo de Olivenca, Tabetinga, Benjamin Constant and Atalaia do Norte; and elsewhere.
There were only 3 trees in gardens in Belém in 1979. The Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia had 150 fruits sent there for evaluation and 80 to 90% of the samplers rated them as of excellent flavor and expressed interest in obtaining trees. However, it is recognized that there is need for horticultural improvement. In 1964, William Whitman obtained seeds from Iquitos, Peru, raised seedlings; planted one on his own property at Bal Harbour, Florida, and distributed the rest to private experimenters. The first to fruit was that grown by B.C. Bowker, Miami, in 1973. Whitman's tree and several others have also borne fruit.
Some of the fruits borne in Florida appear to be of better than average quality. In northern Peru, there is reportedly a type with little fiber and superior flavor.
The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds, bees and wasps. In the afternoon some trees become self-compatible.
The chupa-chupa is a tropical to subtropical species. In Ecuador, it ranges from sea-level to 4,000 or even 6,500 ft (1,200-2,000 m). In Florida, young trees need protection from winter cold. For best performance, the tree needs full sun and plenty of moisture.
The tree attains maximum dimensions in the low, wet, deep soils of South American forests, yet it does well in cultivation on the slopes of the Andes and seems to tolerate the dry, oolitic limestone of South Florida's coastal ridge when enriched with topsoil and fertilizer.
The tree is commonly grown from seed but superior types should be vegetatively propagated. Side-veneer grafting can be easily done. Budding is not feasible.
Season and Harvesting
In Brazil, the tree blooms from August to November and fruits mature from February to May. Trees in Florida bloom in midwinter and ripen their fruits in November. The fruit will stay on the tree until it rots. It must be harvested with a knife or a long cutting-pole. Light color around the edge of the calyx is a sign of ripeness.
Whitman's tree bore 58 fruits in 1976. A normal crop may be 3,000. One tree in Tefé, Brazil, produced an estimated crop of 6,000 or more fruits in a season.
Pests and Diseases
The chupa-chupa is very prone to attack by fruit flies and in some locations in South America is commonly infested with their larvae. In Florida, the Keys whitefly, Aleurodicus dispersus, and the Cuban May beetle, Phyllophaga bruneri, attack the foliage.
This is a fruit that has always been eaten out-of-hand. Those that have the least fibrous flesh may be utilized for juice or in other ways.
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
|Ascorbic Acid||9.7 mg|
*Analyses made in Ecuador.