The Jabuticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora (Mart.) O.Berg.) (also called
Brazilian Grape Tree, Jaboticaba, Jabotica, Guaperu, Guapuru,
Hivapuru, Sabará and Ybapuru) is a fruit-bearing tree in the family
Myrtaceae native to Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil grown for
the purple, grape-like fruits it produces. Other related species in
the genus Myrciaria, often referred to by the same common name, are
native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia. The fruit is
purplish black, with a white pulp; it can be eaten raw or be used to
make jellies and drinks(plain juice or wine).
The fruit tree (named jabuticabeira in Portuguese) has
salmon-colored leaves when they are young, turning green posteriorly.
It is a very slow growing tree which prefers moist, lightly acidic
soils for best growth. It is widely adaptable, however, and grows
satisfactorily even on alkaline beach-sand type soils, so long as
they are tended and irrigated. Its flowers are white and grow
directly from its trunk in a cauliflorous habit. Naturally the tree
may flower and fruit only once or twice a year, but when
continuously irrigated it flowers frequently, and fresh fruit can be
available year round in tropical regions.
The fruit is 3-4 cm in diameter with one to four large seeds,
borne directly on the main trunks and branches of the plant, lending
a distinctive appearance to the fruiting tree. It has a thick,
purple, astringent skin that covers a sweet, white, or rosy pink
gelatinous flesh. Common in Brazilian markets, jaboticabas are
largely eaten fresh; their popularity has been likened to that of
grapes in the US. Fresh fruit may begin to ferment 3 to 4 days after
harvest, so they are often used to make jams, tarts, strong wines,
and liqueurs. Due to the extremely short shelf-life, fresh
jaboticaba fruit is very rare in markets outside of areas of
cultivation. Traditionally, an astringent decoction of the sun-dried
skins has been used as a treatment for hemoptysis, asthma, diarrhoea,
and gargled for chronic inflammation of the tonsils.
Several potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory anti-cancer
compounds have been isolated from the fruit. One that is unique to
the fruit is jaboticabin.
In Brazil the fruit of several species, namely M. jaboticaba (Vell.)
O.Berg, M. tenella (DC.) O.Berg, and M. trunciflora O.Berg, share
the same common name. While all jaboticaba species are subtropical,
all can tolerate mild, brief frosts, and some species may be
marginally more cold-tolerant. Commercial cultivation of the fruit
in the Northern Hemisphere is more restricted by extremely slow
growth and the short shelf-life of fruit than by temperature
requirements. Grafted plants may bear fruit in 5 years; seed grown
trees may take 10 to 20 years to bear fruit, though their slow
growth and small size when immature make them popular as bonsai or
container ornamental plants in temperate regions. Jaboticabas 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
The name is derived from the Tupi word Jabuti (tortoise) + Caba
(place), meaning the place where you find tortoises.
The tree appears as a charge on the coat of arms of Contagem,
Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Jaboticaba has become a widely used species in the art of bonsai,
particularly in Taiwan and parts of the Caribbean.