Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jaboticaba - Jah-bo-ti-caba lol

     Today I am talking a little bit about the Jaboticaba tree, myrciaria cauliflora, part of the Myrtle (Myrtaceae) family, believed to be a native from Brazil.  According to Perdue's horticultural information, the word jaboticaba is said to be derived from the indigenous Tupi people's word jabotim or turtle, giving it the meaning "like turtle fat".  This most likely refers to the context of the large berry; which has a thick outer skin with a sweet juicy meaty pulp inside.  The jaboticaba thrives in full sun & moist well drained soil but can adapt to most other soil types; except alkaline.  We live in an area by the ocean which is considered "pine scrub land" zone 10b where the ground is sandy and dry by nature.  Believe it or not, ours does very well with the slight salt in the air and sandy ground.  Though I do make sure to fertilize our yard about 3 times a year, making a huge difference in how the garden grows.  

     Jaboticaba's rarely reach heights over 20-25 feet here in the US, although in Brazil they can grow up to 35-40 feet.  It is known that established trees can survive short periods of temperatures ranging in the 20's-30's F.  Though if you spent good money on purchasing one of these amazing trees (& yes they can be as expensive as they are a rarity to find) you probably might not want to take that chance.  Since they are very slow growing trees, try planting it in a pot, that way you can bring inside if you live in a frostier environment. You will usually see them with multi-stemmed trunks rather than a single leader tree.  The older the tree is, the more twisted and intertwined the branches are which makes for a very sculptural effect.  The bark is a lot like my guava tree with multi-colors of reddish browns and the bark flakes off in small pieces as the tree grows.

     The small white furry looking flowers pop out like star bursts all over the tree's trunk & branches giving it a very unique look; almost like caterpillars.  The flowers then magically transform into the berries which are all the glory of this fascinating tree.  The berries start out green and end up a large dark deep purple black.  They can be almost 2" in diameter.  The berries are very similar to grapes though unlike grapes, you really should avoid eating the skin due to the high amount of tannin's stored in the peel; plus they are thick and leathery, not a fun chew.  The inside is where all the goodness is at, with it's juicy sweet pulp that has a grapey meloney taste to it, just be careful of biting down on the seeds inside.  The berries can be eaten right off the tree or can be used to make jams, jellies, wine, etc.  I can't figure my jaboticaba out, sometimes the berries are uber sweet and other times they are 'eh, so-so' sweet.  It must be based on soil, water and at what point you pick the berries, which should be right when they are solid in color & soft to the touch.  Jaboticaba's can have multiple fruiting's throughout the year though it's believed that they need other tree's in the area for cross pollination to occur.  Mine fruited and I highly doubt any of my neighbor's have one in their yard, but hey who knows, lol.  

     Not a whole lot of information is known about these uniquely cool trees so when I bought mine four years ago I didn't know it needed more sun than where I planted it.  I was so afraid it was going to die in the transplanting process that I procrastinated moving it for years.  So three months ago, I finally relocated it to a full sun location.  I said some prayers, wished it well and watered it everyday.  It not only survived but it has flourished with flowers all over the branches and new growth everywhere.  Note to self: never underestimate Mother Nature; I now know that Jaboticaba's are extremely hardy & resilient tree's.  Can't wait to tell everyone about how the berries taste!
New leaf growth on our newly transplanted
jaboticaba; starts out reddish green & turns
into a deep green.
Fuzzy looking jaboticaba flowers budding
directly from the new & old growth of the tree.
These will turn into the berries.
The new location of our jaboticaba, just
don't look at the weeds.  I haven't gotten
that far in my front yard makeover, lol!
You can see the unique bark and how sculptural
the tree can become.  Jaboticaba's really don't need
any pruning.  Our's is about 4'6"high right now.
     Well that's a handful of info about the very cool and unique specimen tree called the jaboticaba.  A definite must have in every garden.  Call your local plant nurseries in your area to check their stock.  If you live in the Pompano Beach/Deerfield Beach/Fort Lauderdale area then Donna at The Garden Gate in the Pompano Citi Centre has one waiting just for you!
Best Wishes,

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