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Acca sellowiana (O.Berg) Burret 1941
pronounced: AK-uh sell-low-ee-AH-nuh
(Myrtaceae – the gum family)
synonym: Feijoa sellowiana (O.Berg) O.Berg 1859
pronounced: fay-JOE-uh sell-low-ee-AH-nuh
common names: Pineapple Guava, Feijoa
Acca is said to be derived from an ancient Hebrew word meaning ‘hot sand’, but I have not been able to verify this, or to find the actual word; sellowiana was named for Friedrich Sellow or Sello (1789 - 1831), a German botanist and naturalist who was one of the earliest scientific explorers of Brazil. Feijoa is for João da Silva Feijó (1760 - 1824), a Brazilian-born naturalist.
This is a perennial shrub or small tree that can grow 5 – 7 m in height, widely cultivated as a garden plant, and for its fruit where the climate is suitable. It is really a warm-temperate to subtropical plant; it will grow in the tropics, but requires some winter chill before it will fruit.
The bark is a pale grey; the spreading branches are swollen at the nodes. The thick leathery leaves are opposite, short-petioled, bluntly elliptic, 3 – 6 cm in length, smooth and glossy on the upper surface, and silver-hairy underneath
The conspicuous flowers are bisexual, about 4 cm wide, borne singly or in clusters. They have 4 fleshy oval concave petals, white on the outside and purplish red inside, with a cluster of erect purple stamens with round yellow anthers.
The fruit is oblong or ovoid or rather pear-shaped, up to 5 or 6 cm in length, with persistent calyx segments still adhering to the apex. The skin is thin, and has a bloom of fine whitish hairs while immature. When ripe, it remains a dull green in colour, sometimes with a red or orange blush. It emits a strong perfume, even before it is ripe. The thick flesh is white, watery and granular; the seeds are enclosed in a translucent pulp in the centre of the fruit. There are usually at least 20 seeds, but there may be up to 100; they are tiny, and hardly noticeable when the fruit is eaten.
Although the tree is grown in many places, nowhere is it more popular than in New Zealand. It was introduced there in about 1908, but remained little-known until the 1930s, when it became widely used as an ornamental. After improvement by selection of types with superior fruit, commercial plantings began to be set up in the citrus-growing areas of the country. A considerable amount of fruit is now being exported. New Zealanders often plant the trees as a windbreak around wind-sensitive crops.
In South Africa, it is planted both as an ornamental and for its fruit. After World War II, plantations were established in North Africa, parts of southern Russia, and in Sicily, Portugal and Italy. The tree espaliers well, and is often grown as a wall plant in English gardens. The wood is dense, hard, and brittle.
The planting of this tree is now officially discouraged in both Victoria and NSW, as its fruit is a prime host of the fruit fly.
Photographs taken in a Nelly Bay garden 2012, 2013
Page last updated 2nd July 2018