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Eugenia reinwardtiana (Blume) A.Cunn. ex DC. 1828
pronounced: yoo-JEE-nee-uh rine-WARD-tee-ah-nuh
(Myrtaceae – the gum family)
synonym: Eugenia carissoides F.Muell. 1863
pronounced: yoo-JEE-nee-uh kar-ISS-oi-deez
common names: Beach Cherry, Cedar Bay Cherry
Eugenia was named in honour of Prince Eugene of Savoy, an 18th century Austrian general; reinwardtiana is for Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt (1773-1854), Prussian-born Dutch botanist. After holding various positions and professorships in The Netherlands, he then founded and served as the first director of agriculture of the botanic garden at Bogor (Buitenzorg) in Java. In the synonym, carissoides is botanical Latin for ‘resembling Carissa’, a genus in the family Apocynaceae.
This is such a delicious fruit that I cannot understand why it is not more extensively grown. The plants photographed are in the hedge in the Picnic Bay mall, at the jetty end. There are also quite a few plants in the vine scrub at the southern end of Nelly Bay, and by the side of the road leading to the old Geoffrey Bay jetty. It is an Australian native, our only native Eugenia, and, as you can infer from the second common name, a very common shrub at Cedar Bay in the Daintree area, although by no means confined to there. It may be found anywhere in the coastal regions from Bundaberg north, in the Torres Strait Islands, in PNG, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. It grows in many forms and in many habitats, although usually as a low bush or a small tree. On the offshore islands, it can be found on rocky headlands and protected beach fronts, as well as along dry creek beds, where it grows in association with the vine thickets.
The shiny deep green leaves are opposite, and, when crushed, exude a smell reminiscent of apples. New growth is pink, maturing through lime green – an excellent feature of the plant. The 5-petalled flowers are white and delicate, with a small tuft of fine stamens growing from the centre. They are produced sporadically over the plant, and are followed by the sweet edible fruit. The size, taste and colour of the fruit does vary according to the local growing conditions, as also does the size of the leaves. The fruits I have found on Magnetic Island are delicious – very sweet and cherry-like. The seed is a stone, very like that of the true cherry. To my mind, this fruit compares very favourably with both the Brazilian Cherry and the Grumichama. As well as being good eating when freshly picked, the fruit can also be used as a flavouring for drinks and sweets, or as a preserve.
The plant takes the form of a rounded shrub that will form into a tall shrub or a small tree after many years. Its slow growth rate is an asset when the plant is to be used for hedging or for shaping in a container – it responds well to formative pruning.
It will propagate from seed, but germination may be slow. Look under a mature shrub, and you will often find seedlings to transplant.
Generally this tree is too small to be useful as timber (it is often a low-growing shrub in many places), but it is sometimes used for making tool handles, walking sticks, and posts of small houses. Some archeologists have also suggested that in prehistoric times it was a species that grew to greater size on some islands, and may well have been one of the timbers used in the construction of the A-frame houses that were built on the Latte stones in the Mariana Islands.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2010-2012
Page last updated 3rd December 2016