Bryant is the author of today’s entry. He writes:
Today’s image is of Plinia cauliflora (aka jabuticaba, jaboticaba, or Brazilian grapetree). The photograph was taken by Bruno Karklis and was sourced via the Wikimedia Commons. To see this species in flower (highly recommended), view this photograph by frequent BPotD contributor 3Point141@Flickr.
This remarkable member of the Myrtaceae is native to a number of states in Brazil. The proliferation of black 3-4cm-in-diameter grape-like fruits seen growing directly out of the trunk are a striking demonstration of the habit known as cauliflory. It is thought that cauliflory is sometimes an adaptation to promote pollination and seed dispersal by animals that may have trouble climbing or flying high up in the canopy. It is also suggested that sometimes cauliflory may increase pollination by insects inhabiting lower levels of a forest community. Yet another hypothesis, for species such as jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) and papaya (Carica papaya), is that cauliflory provides a better support structure for their exceedingly large fruits; see the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program’s page on cauliflory for more reading.
The fruits of Plinia cauliflora are edible and have been used in a variety of ways as food and drink. Apparently the fruits do not have a long shelf life and often begin to ferment shortly after being picked, making them an excellent candidate for wines and liqueurs. The species is commercially cultivated for its fruit (which may be produced several times a year with frequent irrigation), as well as for the bonsai trade due to its generally slow growth rates. The fruits also have shown several medicinal qualities, including containing antioxidants with anti-inflammatory/anti-cancer activity; see Reynerson, KA et al. 2006. Bioactive Depsides and Anthocyanins from Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora). Journal of Natural Products. 69(8):1228-1230. Traditionally, the dried skins of the fruit have been used to treat a variety of ailments including asthma and swollen tonsils.