Malpighia emarginata is a tropical fruit-bearing shrub or small tree
in the family Malpighiaceae. Common names include acerola, Barbados
cherry, West Indian cherry and wild crapemyrtle.
M. emarginata can be found in the southernmost parts of the
contiguous United States southern Florida and the Lower Rio Grande
Valley of Texas), Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South
America as far south as Peru and Minas Gerais in Brazil. It is
cultivated in the tropics and subtropics throughout the world,
including the Canary Islands, Ghana, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Zanzibar,
Sri Lanka, Taiwan, India, Java, Hawaii, and Australia.
Acerola is an evergreen shrub or small tree with spreading
branches on a short trunk. It is usually 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft) tall,
but sometimes reaches 6 m (20 ft) in height.
The leaves are simple ovate-lanceolate, 2–8 cm (0.79–3.1 in)
long, 1–4 cm (0.39–1.6 in), and are attached to short petioles. They
are opposite, ovate to elliptic-lanceolate, and have entire or
undulating margins. Top sides are dark green and glossy.
Flowers are bisexual and 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) in diameter. They
have five pale to deep pink or red fringed petals, ten stamens, and
six to ten glands on the calyx. There are three to five flowers per
inflorescence, which are sessile or short-peduncled axillary cymes.
The fruit is a bright red drupe 1–3 cm (0.39–1.2 in) in diameter
with a mass of 3–5 g (0.11–0.18 oz). Drupes are in pairs or groups
of three, and each contains three triangular seeds. The drupes are
juicy and very high in vitamin C and other nutrients. They are
divided into three obscure lobes and are usually acid to sub acid,
giving them a sour taste, but may be sweet if grown well.
Close-up on the blossom and unripe fruits
The fruit is edible and widely consumed in the species' native
area, and is cultivated elsewhere for its high vitamin C content.
There are 1677.6 mg of vitamin C in 100 g of fruit.
In the 1950s, a manufacturer of baby food decided apple juice was
milder for infants than orange juice. The company claimed a drop of
acerola juice in an 8 oz. can of apple juice provided the amount of
vitamin C of an equal amount of orange juice. A detailed nutrition
facts analysis shows acerola juice does contain 32 times the amount
of vitamin C in orange juice, supporting the claim.
Acerola is a popular bonsai subject because of its small leaf,
fruit and fine ramification. It is also grown as an ornamental and