of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
In his chapter on Fruits of the Myrtle Family, Popenoe (1) (1920)
states that the jaboticaba is one of the best of a number of fruits
indigenous to southern Brazil with genuine merit, 'but like many of the
others it has until recently received little attention outside its
native home.' Some 65 years later, this statement seems just as
appropriate. One wonders why; possibly it is just another first-class
fruit in an increasingly crowded market that has just not found its
niche. Seedling material on suboptimal sites with indifferent
horticultural attention can take from six to as much as sixteen years
to come into bearing: whatever initial enthusiasm existed at planting
time is likely well-dissipated by then, and any commercial aspirations
are certainly long gone. Consequently, outside Brazil, where it is just
as popular as the grape is in other parts of the world, it has remained
a rare fruit, interesting and invariably well-liked by the few people
with access to it, but seldom eaten by others and never seen in the
market. We think it has commercial promise and will try to make a case
for this opinion. Horticultural crops are a risky business however, and
we may be wrong; but we can think of no other plant that deserves more
consideration as landscape material. Whatever the size of your yard, it
can be highly recommended both for its bounty and its beauty.
Menninger (2) ( 1975) quotes Harry Blossfeld, Sao Paulo, Brazil,
plantsman, as follows: 'Some 200 miles west of Sao Paulo is a city
named Jaboticabal which got its name from the fruit tree. In that city,
there are thousands of trees in all back yards and orchards. People
stream to the city at harvest time and orchard owners charge an
entrance fee for which you can pluck as many fruits as you can eat. Or
they charge another fee for each five-gallon can you take out with
fruit. Jaboticaba jelly is most popular with us, and any suburban piece
of land offered for sale is charged an additional price for each
Jaboticaba tree standing on it. Jaboticaba trees are practically the
only trees ever transplanted in a big size with root ball; with this
one exception, nobody here would care for buying a grown-up tree and
pay for its hauling. It takes from 12 to 15 years to get a plant from
seed into first fruiting, but by grafting on a more vigorous variety
here known as 'Paulista', it is possible to get young trees to bear
fruit three years after grafting, or six years after sowing the stock'.
Authorities agree the true jaboticaba is Myrciaria cauliflora, but many
of the fruits consumed in Brazil as jaboticaba appear to come from
other species, principally M. jaboticaba, M. trunciflora and M.
tenella. There are a number of named varieties in Brazil, some of which
may well be hybrids between the different Myrciaria species.
M. cauliflora is a handsome evergreen tree reaching 10 to 12 metres
under good conditions. The leaves are small, 2 to 6 cm, mostly
glabrous, rather pale green in colour with light coppery new growth.
Without pruning, the tree branches close to the ground and forms a
fairly tight network of primary and secondary branches. The bark is
shed in thin layers, leaving a smooth surface that is interrupted
during fruiting by small brown buds single or in clusters of two, three
or four, that each give rise to small white flowers with four petals
and a prominent cluster of stamens, and finally to dark maroon-purple
The wild plant is limited to southern Brazil from Rio Grande do Sul to
Minas Geraes. This area occupies latitudes from about 32 to 16 degrees
south, and corresponds to the region from Port Macquarie to Cairns.
Clearly the proximity to the sea is of overwhelming importance in both
countries. In both countries, the general ocean circulation is from the
north to south bringing warm tropical water south. This has the effect
of extending the tropical and subtropical climates to more southern
latitudes, and moderating the extremes of temperature, particularly at
lower elevations adjacent to the coast.
Porto Alegre on the coast in Rio Grande do Sul at about 30 degrees
South Latitude has an average temperature of 24.7°C for the
warmest month and 13.5°C for the coldest month, with an average
rainfall of 127 cm per year. This corresponds to 27.8° and
10.0°C and 178 cm respectively at Byron Bay, about 29 degrees
South Latitude. The four southern coastal states of Brazil from south
to north are Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Parana and Sao Paulo.
The southern border of Sao Paulo is given as the northern limit of
occasional frosts so that about half of the natural range of jaboticaba
is a zone of occasional frosts in winter, at least in some areas. Sound
familiar? A much more detailed comparison of climates is desired, but
this indicates that we are at least reasonably close climatologically.
At Miami, Florida, jaboticabas have passed through a freeze of 26
degrees F., while the Southern California climate has proved too cold
in all but the most protected spots.
In the Northern Rivers area of NSW, growth slows down in winter, but
most bearing trees in the area are continuing to crop this winter (16
July, 1986). Winter fruit develops more slowly and is smaller and less
sweet on trees that we have seen. This does not mean that they can be
grown anywhere in the area, but it does mean that anywhere that you can
grow avocados, they can be considered. In Sao Paulo, Brazil - north of
the occasional frost boundary - planters who are willing to irrigate
can expect ripe fruit throughout the year. Growers in more tropical
locations of Australia may expect a similar result.
There is little information on soil requirements. What comments are
available in the literature suggest deep, rich, well-drained soil with
a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 for best growth.
Ample water at all times is recommended.
The trees have, so far, been remarkably free from pests. We have seen
some grub damage to new growth, but never anything to call for
spraying. Nearly every fruit tree on our farm has scale problems except
the jaboticaba. Birds and possibly fruit bats will likely be a problem
once they find out how tasty the fruit is.
At least some varieties are reported to be polyembryonic, so that
seedling reproduction can be used with selected material exhibiting
this seed characteristic. Indeed, most of the jaboticabas grown in
Brazil are reported to be raised from seed. Seed should be sown as
nearly fresh from the fruit as possible. Storage at 3 to 10 degrees C.
in open containers is successful for periods of 2 to 4 months with
reduced germination success. Seedling jaboticabas are generally less
than 0.5 metres at three years from germination. This helps to explain
why Brazilian nurserymen supply 5- to 6-year-old trees.
Grafting and inarching are successful with jaboticabas and are used to
propagate varieties with desired characteristics in both tropical
America and Florida. Unless some varieties are not reliably
polyembryonic, the need for this is not clear unless the reported
shorter time to fruiting is the objective.
It is reported that air layering can be used to reproduce jaboticabas,
but the small efforts made locally have not yet succeeded. Cuttings can
be rooted, but reproducible techniques with good success rates have not
yet been reported.
Nearly every description of the jaboticaba mentions the long time to
come into production, with figures from 5 to 30 years quoted in the
literature. These are realistic numbers for casual efforts at growing
jaboticabas, and they are truly discouraging in terms of the economics
of producing jaboticabas. The use of vegetatively-propagated material,
good cultural techniques the use of very mature nursery stock and
cincturing have all been suggested as means to shorten the time to
commencement of fruiting. There is limited local evidence that relates
to each of these techniques.
It is not clear when the clock starts with seed-grown material, but it
seems most reasonable to assure that time to fruiting maturity should
be measured from the time the seed is sown. For material of constant
genetic composition, any variability in the maturity time is then
attributable to cultural conditions. How much of this time is spent in
the nursery and how much is spent in the orchard is an important
consideration. In general, the slower-growing species can spend longer
in the nursery without creating serious problems in their subsequent
In 1978, we sent seed from a tree on a University of Hawaii Department
of Tropical Agriculture research farm to Bob Magnus, a local
nurseryman. He distributed this material rather widely in the NSW
Northern Rivers area. Most of this material that we know of has fruited
during the last 8 months, fairly close synchronism in view of the
variable treatments that it has received. That is about 8 years from
seed, and anywhere from 4.5 to 6 years from planting out. The best
result that we know of was on the property of Dan P. Latimer in
Dorroughby, who has several trees from this lot that he planted out
between April and September, 1981. They commenced fruiting in October
and November of 1985, some 4.5 to 5 years after planting. One of three
trees planted from this same stock nearly a year earlier in September
in 1980 at our property in Whian Whian, is fruiting now, 8 months later.
Our trees are just 3-metres high, while Dan Latimer's are nearer 3.5
metres. The better performance of Latimer's trees is likely due to
abundant mulching and dressings with chicken manure. Both of us have
been careful to water the trees during dry spells. The two important
conclusions are that any problem that may arise from three-year-old
nursery stock can be overcome with good care of the trees after
planting out, and that such care is important in the tree's performance.
Dan Latimer cinctured limbs on his trees, but it is not clear whether
the earlier fruiting of his trees is due to better growing conditions
or cincturing or both. Limbs that were not cinctured came into bearing
at about the same time. One of our three trees, which are planted
within about 2 metres of each other, was cinctured; it is not the one
that is fruiting. Fruiting buds are evident on the limbs of the other
two at present. Paul Recher has cinctured one limb on a large-leaved
variety (see 'Grimal' below) of jaboticaba, and it is now in bud, but
not only on the cinctured limb. Our cinctures were about 2mm in width,
while those of Latimer and Recher were on the order of a centimetre.
The jaboticaba heals very quickly if the meristem tissue is not
removed. We removed only the bark and phloem elements and likely this
does not provide sufficient interruption. At present, the results
indicate a cincturing effect but a careful study of possible cincturing
methods and results should be made.
Grafted material does seem to come into production earlier. A grafted
tree at the Alstonville Tropical Fruit Research Station fruited this
year, 3.5 years after planting out; this is, to our knowledge, the best
result in our area. Again, additional study of this matter would be
There are references in the literature that indicate variation in time
to fruiting among the species referred to as jaboticaba, and
differences among varieties are to be expected.
While there are a number of possibilities for shortening the time to
fruiting, the presently achievable 4 to 5 years with well-grown, mature
nursery stock seems tolerable. Since a grower can expect two or three
crops in Northern NSW and as much as five crops in a tropical location,
the production potential does not seem all that poor.
Material Available in Australia
There are probably a number of unrecorded seed importations in
Australia. Since the seed is reportedly polyembryonic, it would be
useful to try to identify the source of the seed where possible. In
addition, there are four named selections or varieties imported as
grafted trees that we know of. Paul Recher brought in two of them:
'Whitman' was acquired from Mr. Whitman from Florida and 'FJI' was
brought in from Hawaii. The Whitman selection has a reputation for
multiple cropping in Florida; this was apparently the basis for the
selection. FJI is claimed to routinely produce large, 4-cm fruit.
According to Mr. Recher, it bore fruit 4 years after planting out on
his Dorroughby property. A full year of fruiting will be required to
determine whether there is a significant difference in fruit size for
this variety and maybe different species. It has not yet fruited in our
area to our knowledge, but Mr. Recher's tree is in bud at present, and
Mr. Carle reports that it has fruited in North Queensland. The Younghan
selection has a reputation for being a prolific bearer. Paul Recher has
also imported seed from a popular Brazilian variety 'Sabara'. This
material has not yet fruited. The seed did not produce multiple plants,
which casts doubt on its po1yembryonic character; possibly it is
apomictic (embryo developed from mother tissue without fertilization).
In any case, the material represents valuable genetic material.
Tho jaboticaba is a good fruit that is well-suited to the
tropical-subtropical east coast of Australia. It looks like it has
reasonable commercial crop potential. Dan Latimer received $6.00 per kg
for fruit he marketed in Brisbane last season. It is not the time to
put in commercial plantations, but interested growers should be
obtaining material for trial on their property.
As an attractive, compact plant that provides a steady supply of tasty
family fruit on even the smallest suburban block, it has much to
1. Popenoe, Wilson, Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits, a
facsimile publication of the 1920 Edition by too Macmillan Company by
Hafner Press, 1974 , New York. N.Y.
2. Menninger, Edwin A., Color in the Sky, 1975, Horticultural Books
Inc. Stuart, Florida.