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Eugenia uniflora L. 1753
pronounced: yoo-JEE-nee-uh yoo-nee-FLOR-uh
(Myrtaceae — the gum family)
common names: Brazilian Cherry, Surinam Cherry
Eugenia was named for Prince Eugene of Savoy, the 18th century Austrian general, one of the most prominent military leaders in European history. With the booty obtained from his conquests, he built a number of palaces. Among these was the Lower Belvedere palace in Vienna, completed in 1716; to its gardens, with accompanying zoo, Eugene brought rare plants and exotic animals from all over the world. Uniflora comes from two Latin words: unus, one and flos, a flower, i.e. bearing solitary flowers.
This is a highly ornamental shrub native to South America, related to the lilly-pilly, with spreading branches and aromatic foliage. The young foliage is bronze in colour, turns a glossy deep green when mature, and then, if the weather is cold enough, a deep red. The leaves are opposite, ovate to ovate-lanceolate. As with all Myrtaceae, there are oil glands in the leaves. The thin bark peels off in strips. It has delicate white 4-petaled solitary flowers with numerous pollen-rich stamens that are followed in about three weeks by a ribbed fruit 2–3 cm in diameter. The fruit starts green, then turns yellow, and finally deep crimson.
The fruit is delicious eaten straight from the bush, although the flavour is quite resinous and tart if the fruit is not completely ripe. It should fall from the shrub with a light touch. The flavour is enhanced by refrigeration, and then the fruit makes a good substitute for strawberries. It is high in vitamin C, and makes an excellent addition to fruit cups, salads and ice cream. It is often used as a pie filling or as an ingredient in sauces, or preserved whole in syrup. The fruits can be made into jam, jelly, relish or pickles. Brazilians ferment the juice into vinegar or wine, and sometimes make a distilled liquor from it.
The aromatic foliage can be crushed and used as an effective fly repellant. It is best not to eat the seeds, as they can cause diarrhoea.
In Brazil a leaf infusion is taken for stomach ache and to reduce fever. In Surinam the leaf infusion is drunk as a cold remedy and, in conjunction with lemon grass, for reducing fever.
The shrub hedges well, and is to be found as part of the hedge in the Picnic Bay Mall, although it is not renowned for its tolerance to salt. It will also make a good screen. The fruit is very appealing to birds, and can easily spread into native vegetation remnants, where it can continue to self-seed and inhibit the growth of native vegetation. If grown close to rainforest remnants, the bush should be netted during fruiting to avoid its escape into the wild. The Brazilian Cherry has already become an environmental weed pest in parts of northern New South Wales.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009-2011
Page last updated 2nd December 2016