Plinia cauliflora

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.

Plinia cauliflora

13 responses to “Plinia cauliflora”

  1. Nadia

    Amazing picture and explanation!

  2. Judy

    An extraordinary tree! Thanks so much for the photo and information.

  3. Rita squire

    We grow this nr. Cairns in northern Queensland, Australia.
    In the marginal rainforest at the same approx. latitude as Sao Paulo, but our trees not as vigorous and our crop is about 25% of these !

  4. Lindelani

    Interesting plant! I’ve never seen something like that in our country South africa, was wondering if it can grow in our beatiful country.

  5. Lyle Anderson

    Who knew evolution could be so much fun?

  6. Wendy Cutler

    You could do a month or two of cauliflorous trees to suit me! I already had 3Point141@Flickr’s photo in my Cauliflory flickr gallery. That must be so exciting to come across this tree. I was pretty excited to see the photo.

  7. Bonnie

    This is weird! I never knew such a thing existed.

  8. Sara

    Wow! Cool tree. Wish I could grow it in Missouri – excellent for moonshiners?

  9. Peter

    Awesome! Wine anyone?

  10. Celso Lago-Paiva

    The Plinia (or Myrciaria) tree species (Myrtaceae) with large, sweet fruits are rare in natural ecosystems in eastern Brazil.
    The seeds are dispersed by bats, monkeys, and other mammals, as porcupines, opossuns, and tayras, all of them fond of the sweet, sour, and juicy fruits.
    Here in central Minas Gerais State we find sometimes, in limestone soils, Myrciaria grandifolia, named “jaboticatuba” (pronounced as “jabotee-catooba”), very appreciated, but seldom planted.
    Other species, as Myrciaria cauliflora, were (in the near past) common in urban backyards and farm house orchards. Every person were fond of their delicious fruits, produced two times an year, generally in October and April. Good jellies, marmalades, and wine were produced.
    All species are condemned to extinction in almost every Brazilian regions, because the nature reserves (e.g. national parks) are few, isolated, and little, and due to the extinction of the backyards and farm orchards.
    It is sad that such marvelous fruits must be unknown to the children of next generations, if urgent actions do not change the destructive scenario designed by globalization, urban growth and loss of cultural traditions.
    Celso do Lago Paiva
    Curvelo, Minas Gerais State, Brazil
    Instituto Pró-Endêmicas

  11. elizabeth a airhart

    i live in florida trees in this family grow here
    fine write up the master gardeners page is
    worth visiting thank you

  12. mona

    it is amazing. thanks for mail.

  13. Linda

    Astounding. That is just the craziest thing ever, but so interesting. I read the link on cauliflory and it’s been going on for years in my front garden–Cercis canadensis (redbud). I never knew. The comment from Celso do Lago Paiva added much to my understanding of the species and its future in Brazil.

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