The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source
site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
SBulletin 594 March 1958
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATIONS
JOSEPH R. BECKENBACH, Director
(A contribution from the Sub-Tropical Experiment Station)
THE BARBADOS OR WEST INDIAN
R. BRUCE LEDIN
Assistant Horticulturist, Sub-Tropical Experiment Station
Fig. 1.-Top, branch of Barbados cherry showing th I rist
clustering of leaves and flowers on the short lateral shoots. Bo
fruit of the Barbados cherry.
Single copies free to Florida residents upon request to
AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION
NOMENCLATURE AND BOTANICAL RELATIONSHIP .-..-.......... ...-..-......-. 3
Common Names .3... .. ..... ...... ........ .... ....- ..- ....... .. 3
Scientific Name ......-...-..-- ..-- ..-- ...-- ..-- ..- .. ......--..-- -- ..--..- ... 4
Botanical Relationship ...-.............------------ .....-..---- ...- ......... 4
H ISTORY --........- ............- ....--.............-...--................--... ............ 6
DESCRIPTION ....--..---......-....------- ----------- ..--. ......-------..-... 7
Habit, Branches and Leaves ....-..........---- ...------- ..--.--..-- ..---- 7
Flowers ........-- ...--.... --..-- .....--------- --------------.. ................ 8
Fruit ..--... ---------- -------------.. ------.. ...... ---------..-....--..--- ... 8
ASCORBIC ACID OR VITAMIN C CONTENT ..-...--..-....-..-----..---.......-.--.... 9
Ascorbic Acid ...---.- ...- ...... ----- ..-- ........-...--------- 9
Daily Requirement ..----- .---------.....-- ...-----------...--..-.....- 10
Comparison with Other Fruits --.......--...--..-----..---... .---..-......... 10
Other Nutrients ......--... .. ...-..---------- -- ---- -......... ..- ....--...-- .. 11
SELECTED CLONES .--....- -- --..... ... -- -----------...-- -------... --..... --.....--... 11
Puerto Rican B-17 .---..---.....--...---------..-...--... ------------...... 12
Florida Sweet --------...........- --------- -----------.... ...- --. ............- ... 13
CULTURE ..- ......-- ...... ..------------------------.......... --... ....- ............ ..... 15
Propagation ....-----......... ..............-... .. -.......--..- ..... 15
Soil ..... ----....... . .... .....--...-... ......... -........... .. 16
Planting ...------.....-------.. -.. ...- ----.....-...-...--------- - -... ........ 18
Mulching ----- ---....---......- .......- --...-... ..-.........---. 18
Fertilizing ......----------... -- ---.. ...........................- ...... ............ 18
Irrigation ...--... ..... --------- -----------...- - --------------... .. -............. 19
Pruning .........-- .....-........ -----.. ----------... .... ......... ..... 19
Insects and Other Pests .--..----....-..-...--.- ...----... ........ ...-...... 20
YIELDS AND HARVESTING ...-- .....-..-- ..-.-.--- .......---...---..--..--..... 22
USES ..---- .... .----------------------....- ..... --- ---...---... --------...... -.... 24
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry
R. BRUCE LEDIN
(Photographs by John C. Noonan)
The Barbados or West Indian cherry is a shrub or small tree
that has been grown in south and central Florida for many years,
mainly as a backyard fruit plant. It is valued for its fruits which
have a characteristic flavor and which are usually eaten out-of-
hand. In recent years this plant has received considerable at-
tention in Florida (13, 34), Puerto Rico (2, 19, 20), Hawaii and
elsewhere because of the extremely high vitamin C content of
It is a tropical plant and will grow only in areas not subjected
to prolonged cold weather. In Florida, it is planted only in the
central and southern parts of the State where it is well suited
as a dooryard fruit plant. Although there are no extensive com-
mercial plantings, a few small plantings have been made in re-
cent years. It remains to be seen, however, whether the high
cost of production and labor will make it a profitable enterprise
in Florida. Nevertheless, it is likely that the demand for the
fruit and its products will continue to increase as its potentiali-
ties become more widely known.
NOMENCLATURE AND BOTANICAL RELATIONSHIP
In Florida the name Barbados cherry is generally used for
this plant. This name was first used in Jamaica as early as 1696
by Hans Sloane, who believed that the plant was introduced from
the island of Barbados to Jamaica (32). The name was also
used in Florida by Reasoner in 1903 (28) and later by Mowry
and Toy (21).
The name West Indian cherry is also used; this name seems
to have originated in Puerto Rico by Britton and Wilson in 1924
(7). Other English names are Jamaican cherry and Puerto
It has long been called Acerola in Puerto Rico, a Spanish
name which was originally applied, as "azarole", to the parsley-
leaved hawthorn, Crataegus azarolus L., a native of Asia Minor
and northern Africa; the fruit of this plant is red with a yellow
tinge, acid, but tasty and pleasant. Apparently the fruit of the
hawthorn resembles the Barbados cherry and early Spanish
4 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
explorers in Puerto Rico, especially those from Andalusia of
Arabic origin, applied the name acerola to it (26).
Cereza is a Spanish name for cherry and is frequently used
for the Barbados cherry in the West Indies and Central America
because of the resemblance of the fruit to a true cherry. Other
names are Cereza colorado and Cerise des Antilles.
The correct scientific name is Malpighia glabra L. Both this
name and Malpighia punicifolia L. have been applied to this
plant, the latter name being used mostly in Puerto Rico. Recent
studies (16) have shown, however, that there are no characters
that can be used on which the species can be clearly separated.
Since M. glabra was named first, in 1753, it has priority over
M. punicifolia, which was not named until 1762.
The genus was named by Charles Plumier in 1703 in honor of
Marcello Malpighi (1628-1693), an Italian naturalist, physician
and philosopher of Bologna who wrote on the anatomy of plants.
The name was adopted by Linnaeus in 1737 and thus it became
the accepted name for the genus.
The Barbados cherry belongs to the family Malpighiaceae.
Other plants in this family that are cultivated in Florida are the
following: Thryallis glauca Kuntze (Galphimia glauca Cav.),
a popular ornamental shrub with yellow flowers; Malpighia
coccigera L., a low-growing ornamental shrub with prickly leaves
and pinkish flowers; several species of Stigmaphyllon which are
vines with yellow flowers; Hiptage bengahalensis Kurz., a climb-
ing shrub with white or pink flowers; Byrsonima crassifolia
H.B.K., a tree native to Central America with yellow flowers and
edible acid fruit; Heteropteris beecheyana Juss., a vine with
attractive pink flowers and red samara-like fruits, recently intro-
duced from Central America. One species, Byrsonima lucidum
DC., is a shrub native to South Florida and the keys.
The genus Malpighia, consisting of some 30 to 40 species,
ranges from southern Texas through Mexico and Central Amer-
ica to Peru and Dutch Surinam and throughout the West Indian
Islands from Trinidad to Cuba. Many of the species apparently
were founded on minor vegetative characters and a thorough
study of this group would probably show that there are only 15
to 20 valid species (16).
The native countries of the true Barbados cherry are not
known for certain, as it seems to exist only in cultivation, or as
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 5
an escape from cultivation, in such countries as Cuba, Puerto
Rico, Trinidad, Dutch Surinam and Florida. Malpighia mexicana
A. Juss. (M. edulis D. Smith) of Mexico and Central America
also has large, edible fruit and is called "Acerola" in Costa Rica.
It differs from the true Barbados cherry in having permanently
A number of other species of Malpighia are often confused
with the Barbados cherry. These have small, inedible fruits to 3/8
inch in diameter, usually red and rather dry and insipid. The vita-
min C content is less than 20 mg. per 100 g. These plants usually
remain shrubby, have very attractive flowers and show consider-
able variation in leaf types. Several forms of these small-fruited,
inedible types are grown in Florida and Texas as ornamental
shrubs and offered by nurseries as "Malpighia". Two of these in-
troductions were distributed by the USDA, Plant Introduction
Section; one in the early 1930's (no P.I. number) and the other in
1947 (P.I. 157151), the seed being sent from Colombia, South
America (Fig. 2). Two forms, one with small narrow leaves and
the other with large ovate leaves (Fig. 3) have been cultivated
in Texas and recently introduced in Florida.
The Barbados cherry should not be confused with true cher-
ries of the Primus genus (rose family) grown in temperate cli-
mates but not in Florida. Nor should the Barbados cherry be
confused with the Surinam cherry, Eugenia uniflora L., a mem-
ber of the myrtle family, grown throughout most of Florida as
Fig. 2.-Ornamental forms of Malpighia sometimes become confused
with the true Barbados cherry. Left, P. I. 157151, introduced from Colom-
bia and distributed in 1947. Right and lower center, a small bush distributed
in 1932 and now much cultivated. Upper center, a fruit of the true Barba-
6 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
a popular shrub or hedge plant. Superficially the Barbados
cherry resembles the fruit of these plants, but its structure and
flavor are quite different. The true cherry is smooth and not
lobed; the Surinam cherry is usually nine-ridged or fluted, while
the Barbados is shallowly 3-lobed.
Natives of the West Indies have undoubtedly used the fruit
of this shrub for many centuries. The early Spanish explorers
observed the native use of this fruit and named it "cereza" and
acerolaa". Sloane (33) described it as growing in many gardens
in Jamaica in 1725.
The Barbados cherry was probably introduced into Florida
from Havana, Cuba, some time in the 1880's by Pliny Reasoner,
and is listed in his Royal Palm Nursery catalogue for 1887-88
(27), but it was not recorded as an edible fruit in Florida until
1903 (28). It has been growing in south and central Florida as
a backyard fruit plant ever since, but it was not given any special
recognition until it was described in 1931 by Mowry and Toy
(21). The story of the discovery of the high ascorbic acid con-
tent of the fruit was given by Asenjo in 1953 (3).
Fig. 3.-An ornamental form of Malpighia from Texas with large
ovate, short-acuminate leaves and small, inedible fruit.
. ... ....
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 7
HABIT, BRANCHES AND LEAVES
The Barbados cherry is a shrub or sometimes a small tree if
pruned to develop a central trunk. In 10-12 years plants become
about 15 feet high with numerous branches, some plants grow-
ing more or less erect with an open type growth (Fig. 6), others
spreading and with rather dense growth and drooping branches
(Fig. 5). Branches are thick and woody and have conspicuous,
raised white lenticels. Stipules are minute and deciduous. Leaves
are opposite, simple, entire, and quite variable in size and shape.
Young leaves and herbaceous stems are clothed with white,
silky, appressed, 2-branched hairs that rub off easily on contact
and may cause a slight skin irritation. Leaves and stems become
glabrous upon maturity. Mature leaves are usually dark green
in color, shiny above, somewhat thickened, and with very short
petioles. Branching is opposite or 4-ranked (Fig. 4).
The leaves and branches are of two types (Figs. 1, 4 and 7):
(A) New terminal growth which is 6 to 12 inches or more in
length and with long internodes. The leaves on these twigs are
usually large, 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 11/2 inches wide, ellipti-
cal, oval, ovate to ovate-elliptical, and with a short, acute, mucro-
Fig. 4.-Branches of a Barbados cherry showing the typical short lateral
spinescent shoots on which the smaller, acute, obtuse or notched leaves are
borne close together.
\I >~. _'f
8 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
nate or apiculate apex. (B) Short shoots or lateral spurs which
have very short internodes and usually end in a blunt spur (Fig.
4). These shoots develop from the axils of the lower leaves on
the new terminal growth as well as on mature wood. The leaves
on the short shoots are crowded or clustered, to 11/ inches long
and 3/4 inch wide, mostly elliptical or obovate-elliptical, and
usually with an obtuse or notched, mucronate or apiculate apex.
The flowers are 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter and are pink, red or
rose and in some clones white. They appear in April or May,
along with the new vegetative growth, and continue to be pro-
duced off and on throughout the summer and fall, often as late
as November. They attract bees in large numbers. The flowers
are produced in inflorescences which are either sessile, short-
stalked or long-stalked (Fig. 7). The stalked clusters are pro-
duced in the axils of the lower leaves of the terminal growth and
usually consist of 2 but often 6 or more flowers on a common
stalk or peduncle. The sessile and short-stalked inflorescences
are produced in the leaf axils on the short lateral spurs, from
1 to 6 or more in a cluster, the sessile ones each with its own
stalk and one flower. The pedicels are jointed, usually below the
middle, and bear 2 minute bracts. The pedicels and peduncles
have appressed white, silky hairs.
The calyx consist of 5 short, erect sepals which are white and
hairy on the outside, and 6, 8 or 10 glands located on the outer
and lower part of the sepals. The corolla consists of 5 clawed,
obtuse petals, 4 of which have suborbicular fringed blades, the
fifth petal being larger, more erect and fan-shaped. The stamens
are 10 in number, united at the base, erect, shorter than the
petals, slightly shorter than the styles or of equal length, 2 sta-
mens (the posterior or epipetalous ones) opposite the lateral
petals are thicker and with longer filaments. The 3-carpellate
pistil consists of an ovoid, glabrous ovary and 3 styles. The 3
styles are erect, pointing outward, all more or less the same size
and length, but the style opposite the large petal (anterior style)
produced at more of an angle and the 2 paired lateral styles are
thicker and more erect. The styles are truncate or hooked at the
apex, the stigmatic surface being on the inner angle.
The fruit (Figs. 1, 7), botanically, is a type of berry-like
drupe. It is globular but usually wider than long, shallowly 3-
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 9
lobed, of various shades of light orange-red to deep purple-red
in color. The skin is very thin and delicate and easily bruised.
There are 3 stones (pyrenes) which have 3 longitudinal crests or
wings with transverse projections into the furrows. Each stone
contains 1 seed. The average size of the fruit is 3/4 to 1 inch
in diameter and the average weight is 1/4 to 1/3 ounce. The largest
fruit, however, may reach 11/4 inches in diameter and weight over
1/2 ounce. The fruit resembles the Northern crabapple in taste,
due to the presence of malic acid, but at the same time it has a
distinctive flavor. The fruits of some clones are quite tart and
acid while others are less acid and some can be called sweet. The
fruit contains about 60 to 70 percent extractable juice, but the
total liquids present in the fruit averages 80 percent or higher.
The fruit matures 3 to 4 weeks after flowering. Some clones
flower and fruit from April to November almost continuously;
but usually there are peaks of heavy flowering followed by heavy
fruiting, in some clones only 3 or 4, in others 8 or 10.
ASCORBIC ACID OR VITAMIN C CONTENT
In Puerto Rico in 1946 Asenjo and Guzman (5) reported that
fruits of the Barbados cherry possessed extremely high amounts
of ascorbic acid; varying from 1,030 to 3,309 mg. per 100 g. of
edible matter, or 1 to 3 g. of vitamin C in 100 g. (approximately
31/2 ounces) of juice. Green fruits were highest, fully ripe
fruits lowest in ascorbic acid content. Florida Barbados cherries
were reported by Mustard (22) to have a high ascorbic acid
content, varying from 1,028 to 4,676 mg. per 100 g. of edible
matter. Here again the green fruits were the highest. She
also found 509 to 673 mg. ascorbic acid per 100 g. of the jellies,
a surprising amount, since cooking tends to destroy vitamin C.
Similar results were obtained in Puerto Rico (3), where Barba-
dos cherry jellies were found to have as much as 1,900 mg. per 100
g. of the jelly. When the juice is pasteurized and canned, it re-
tains considerable ascorbic acid. In Puerto Rico it was found
that flash pasteurized juice stored for 1 year at 45 degrees F.
retains 80 percent of the ascorbic acid. However, if kept at room
temperature (80-85 degrees F.) the juice lost 54 to 82 percent of
its ascorbic acid content at the end of 1 year (25, 31).
The vitamin C content of the fruit varies with the clone,
since some seedlings produce fruit with more ascorbic acid than
others. All selections tested to date and known to be the true
Barbados cherry have shown relatively high amounts of ascorbic
10 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
acid, varying from 1,000 to over 4,000 mg. per 100 g. of edible
pulp. The vitamin content also varies with the ripeness of the
fruit-green fruits have the most ascorbic acid; half-ripe and
completely ripe fruits are about the same in amount of this vita-
min but contain less than the green fruits (5, 6, 20, 22). The
time of year also may affect the concentration of the vitamin,
since more ascorbic acid is present in fruits in August than in
It is also quite likely that fruits maturing in shade may have
less ascorbic acid, as was found for Eugenia glomerata Berg. in
Brazil (18). Fruits exposed to full sunlight had an average of
2,376 mg. per 100 g., but those in the shade averaged only 706
mg. of ascorbic acid per 100 g. of edible matter. The fruits of
orange, tangerine, apple, strawberry and tomato also possess
more vitamin C when exposed to the sun (40).
It is sometimes stated that the more acid-tasting the fruit, the
more ascorbic acid present. However, acidity as such has little
to do with the ascorbic acid content. In the Barbados cherry,
tartness is probably due to malic acid, since this acid is present
in the fruit of tart clones but absent in the semi-sweet clone
(30, 38). The fruit lacks citric acid (30).
The optimum daily requirement for an average adult under
average conditions is 75 mg. of ascorbic acid (minimum 20-25,
adequate 40-45, optimum 75-80). A fruit with more than 40 mg.
per 100 g. of ascorbic acid is considered an excellent source of
vitamin C. Many tropical and subtropical fruits are more or less
a fair source of ascorbic acid, but the Barbados cherry is superior
to practically all other fruits in this respect (see Table 1). One
fruit of the Barbados cherry can furnish 53 to 176 mg. of ascorbic
acid and can thus supply the daily requirement (1). The ascorbic
acid in the Barbados cherry was found to be available to human
beings and has been successfully used to cure an acute case of
COMPARISON WITH OTHER FRUITS
In Table 1 are listed 25 species in which the fruits are con-
sidered to have high vitamin C values. The ascorbic acid con-
tent is given in milligrams per 100 grams of juice or edible mat-
ter. The figures are taken from several publications and are
presented here, in descending order as to their ascorbic acid con-
tent, to compare them with the Barbados cherry.
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 11
TABLE 1.-AscORBIC ACID CONTENT OF VARIOUS FRUITS.
Species (mg./100 g.)
Rosa rugosa rose hip................... 1,700 to 6,977
Barbados cherry ...................... ..... 1,000 to 4,676
Myrciaria glomerata ...................... 706 to 2,417
Phyllanthus emblica ...................... 625 to 1,814
Guava ........................................ 23 to 486
Cashew apple ...-...............-- ...-..--- ... 147 to 348
Green pepper ...................................... 86 to 275
Adansonia dzgitata ......................... 300
Ceylon gooseberry .---..-.......... ...... 66 to 245
Brysonima crassifolia ..-..-..--..----.... 90 to 192
Mango .......................-...........-......- -.... 7 to 147
Crataegus pubescens ........................ 90 to 119
Papaya ......................-.....---.............. 36 to 109
Lychee ......................-.................... 42 to 84
Naranjilla ....................................... -31 to 84
Jujube ..............-..............-..-...-......-. 56 to 82
Strawberry ........................................ 41 to 81
M untingia ...............................-- ........ 81
Spondias purpurea .-..-...-.........-- ........ 26 to 73
Sour orange .....................-............- .. 43 to 103
Lemon .....................................-. ..-... 50 (23 to 60)
Orange ............................................... 49 (37 to 80)
Grapefruit ......-............................... 40 (23 to 50)
Tangerine ...........-......-.....--- ............. 31 (15 to 57)
Lim e ................................... ............... 30 (25 to 49)
The Barbados cherry is also considered an excellent source of
vitamin A (as B-carotene), since it contains 1,017 I.U. per 100 g.
of edible fruit (the daily requirement is 5,000 I.U., but a fruit
with more than 1,000 I.U. per 100 g. is considered an excellent
source). The fruit also contains thiamine, riboflavin and niacin;
these vitamins are present in low amounts which do not differ
appreciably from those of other fruits. The fruit is a good
source of iron and a fair source of calcium and phosphorus (6,
9, 39). The carbohydrate (as total sugars) content is 3.5 to
Barbados cherry grown from seed shows considerable varia-
tion in growth habit, flowering and fruiting, fruit size, quality,
flavor, vitamin C content and yields. In selecting seedlings for
vegetative propagation, the following should be considered.
1. The plant should produce heavy yields that increase every
2. The plant should produce large fruit with high juice con-
12 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
3. The fruit should have a relatively thick skin and firm
flesh which tend to reduce bruising and mechanical injury dur-
4. The fruit should have desirable flavor, either tart or
sweet, depending on personal preference and use. For eating
out-of-hand, a sweet fruit is usually most popular. For process-
ing, tart varieties may be preferred. For general purposes, the
semi-sweet seems satisfactory.
5. The growth should be erect and open rather than spread-
ing and thick.
6. The selection should be easily propagated from cuttings.
Plants bearing fruit with high vitamin C content are most
desirable. This may not be so important, however, because most
seedlings will produce fruit with more vitamin C than other
fruits. Fruits that yield more than 1,000 mg. of ascorbic acid
per 100 g. of juice would be satisfactory. However, if vitamin C
were to be extracted or used to enrich other fruit juices, those
clones bearing fruit with the most vitamin C would be preferred.
PUERTO RICAN B-17
Variety selection is under way in Florida and Puerto Rico. In
the latter country, one clone, B-17, has been selected and was
Fig. 5.-A tree of the B-17 clone of Barbados cherry, five years
in the field. Notice the thick, drooping habit of growth.
", ". :
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 13
described in 1954 (1) (Fig. 5). It is a tart variety that produces
large fruit with high juice content and high yields-3.6 to 5.4
tons per acre from four-year-old trees. The vitamin C content
is 1,325 to 2,250 mg. per 100 g. of juice.
At the Sub-Tropical Experiment Station, several clones have
been on test since 1949 (14, 15). In 1956 one was selected as
being the most superior and and was officially named the Florida
Sweet Barbados cherry (15) (Figs. 6 and 7). The plants have
an upright and open type of growth; they are vigorous and fast
growing, more cold tolerant and more readily propagated from
cuttings than most other clones. The fruit is bright red in color,
measuring to 11/4 inches in diameter and weighing 1/2 ounce or
Fig. 6.-Florida Sweet Barbados cherry six years in the field.
Notice the upright and open type of growth.
14 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
slightly more. The skin is thicker and the flesh is somewhat
firmer than fruit of other clones; thus the fruit is less susceptible
to stings of the stink bugs and to bruising when handled. The
fruit has an agreeable apple-like flavor and is semi-sweet. The
ascorbic acid content is from 1,500 to 2,000 mg. per 100 g. of
juice. The Florida Sweet flowers in March or April and con-
tinues to flower and fruit at periods throughout May, June and
July. Yields during August to November are generally lighter.
The average yield per plant and estimated yield per acre from
1954 through 1957 are given in Table 2.
TABLE 2.-FLORIDA SWEET BARBADOS CHERRY; AVERAGE YIELD PER PLANT
AND ESTIMATED YIELD PER ACRE.
Avg./Plant Yield/Acre (300 plants)
Year Age (Lbs.) (Lbs.)
1954 ......-...... 5 21 6,300
1955 ............. 6 69 20,700
1956 .............. 7 133 39,900
1957 ............. 8 171 51,300
Fig. 7.-Florida Sweet Barbados cherry showing fruit, leaves and flowers.
The small branch on the right shows a sessile flower cluster.
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 15
Air Layering.-The Barbados cherry can be propagated by
air layers. Air layering is best done during spring and summer
while the plants are growing. This is accomplished by girdling
the stem and removing a ring of bark. The girdled portion is
then covered with damp sphagnum moss and a sheet of vinyl
plastic film. Rooting in the moss should take place in four to
six weeks, at which time the air layer is severed from the plant,
the vinyl film removed and the plant potted.
Cuttings.-The most desirable method of propagating the
Barbados cherry in large quantities is by cuttings (2, 13, 19, 24,
29) (Figs. 8 and 9). Select leafy hardwood cuttings from healthy
branches. The rooting medium should be porous to allow good
aeration and drainage but not so coarse as to injure the roots
when the cuttings are removed. Vermiculite, peat moss or sand,
or a mixture of any of these materials, may be used. Wood shav-
ings, crushed granite (chicken grit), zeolite (a water softening
by-product) or pearl-lite also can be used. The cuttings should
be kept moist and under shade. A constant or interrupted water
mist will aid materially in preventing dehydration and hastening
Fig. 8.-Leafy hardwood cuttings prepared for rooting.
16 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
rooting. Nelson and Goldweber (24) found indolebutyric acid to
be the best hormone to induce root formation. The basal two
inches of each cutting is immersed for five seconds in indolebu-
tyric acid at a concentration of 5.0 mg. per ml. and allowed to dry
prior to being placed in the rooting medium. The cutting should
be 5 to 10 inches long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter (Fig. 8). Two
or three leaves are left on the upper portion of the stem. Roots
are formed within two months. When the cuttings are well
rooted they are then carefully transplanted to quart or gallon
containers and allowed to become established before being planted
in the field.
Grafting.-The Barbados cherry can be propagated also by
grafting, using a side veneer or a cleft graft. A modified crown
graft is used in Cuba (12), the top of the plant being cut off and
a side veneer graft placed along the cut end, allowing the terminal
portion of the scion to project above the cut surface of the stock.
Since the Barbados cherry is readily propagated by cuttings and
air layers, grafting is seldom used. Grafting is desirable in test-
ing rootstocks, especially those resistant to nematodes, or propa-
gating clones in which cutting material is scarce or difficult to
Seeds.-Seeds germinate readily, but some plants produce
fruits in which many of the seeds contain non-viable embryos;
germination of these seeds is frequently less than 50 percent.
In preparing for planting, it is not necessary to remove the seed
from the stone; the seed is quite delicate and easily damaged if
one attempts to remove it. The stones are cleaned of all flesh
and allowed to dry before being planted. Dusting the stones with
a seed protectant will aid in preventing damping-off of young
seedlings. The stones may be sown in flats and when the seed-
lings become two to three inches high they are transplanted
into quart or gallon containers.
Plants grow well in the alkaline rockland soil of south Dade
County and also in the acid sands of central Florida provided
root-knot nematode is not a problem. In acid soils, the addition
of lime is often beneficial. In Puerto Rico an increase of 400
percent in yield was obtained when two tons of lime per acre
were added to soil with a pH of 5.4 (11). Symptoms of calcium
deficiency were noted in plants growing in acid soil; the leaves
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 17
showed a yellowing at the tips and along the marginal areas (8).
The plants also grow well in marl soil, provided it is not subjected
to flooding and is well drained; the Barbados cherry may be
killed if stagnant water stands over the roots for more than a
few days at a time. In Puerto Rico the plants have grown well
in clay soils.
*.J fr W,
vf. -^ ^ W 7
Fig. 9.-Nine-month-old plant grown from a cutting, ready for
planting in the field.
18 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
Plants 6 to 12 months old grown from either seed, cuttings
or air layers will develop a good root system in containers and
are ready for planting in the field (Fig. 9). The plants can be
set out at any time of the year, but in Florida, April to June, just
before the rainy season, is best.
For field planting, the plants can be set in hedge formation
or planted on a square; in both cases the rows should be 12 to
15 feet apart. For hedging, the plants can be set 6 to 8 feet apart
within the row, thus providing 363 to 484 plants per acre. If
planted on a square 12 x 12, 12 x 15 or 15 x 15, the number
of plants per acre would be 302, 242 or 194. Spacing of plants
depends to a large extent on the type of growth of the particular
clone, since some grow taller and some spread more than others
and thus require more space when they become 8 to 10 years old.
The Barbados cherry may be planted between avocados,
mangos, lychees or other fruit plants that are planted 25 to
40 feet apart. Being a shrub, the Barbados cherry will not in-
terfere with these plants until they become 6 to 10 years of age.
In home plantings, 1 or 2 plants may be set in the yard as
specimen plants or planted along the border among other plants.
A very effective border hedge can be made with the Barbados
cherry, setting the plants 2 to 4 feet apart and trimming oc-
casionally to keep them in shape.
The use of a heavy 'mUlch around the plants is recommended,
as it helps to conserve moisture, moderate soil temperatures,
control weeds and reduce damage from root-knot. The mulch
may be of straw, grass, hay, leaves, wood shavings, sawdust or
The plants are dormant during the winter months of Decem-
ber to March and do not require fertilization at that time. With
the onset of warm weather in March and April, vegetative growth
begins and flowering occurs on the new growth shortly after.
At the Sub-Tropical Experiment Station good results have
been obtained by fertilizing with a 10-0-10 mixture in late Feb-
ruary or early March, just before new growth emerges. This
fertilizer mixture encourages good growth and flowering. About
1/2 pound of fertilizer per tree for each year of age of the plant is
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 19
sufficient; thus a six-year-old plant would receive 3 pounds of
10-0-10 fertilizer. Additional fertilizings are made in May, July
and September or October, using a 4-7-5-3 mixture, or a 6-4-6-3
for older plants that have been fertilized for several years, at
each application applying 1 pound of fertilizer for each year of
age of the plant. Thus a six-year-old plant will receive 6 pounds
of fertilizer for each application. After the plants have attained
considerable size, usually in about 10 years, the amount of ferti-
lizer applied each year should remain constant. Thus trees over
10 years old should receive only 10 pounds of fertilizer for each
application in May, July and September and 5 pounds of 10-0-10
in early spring.
Apply the fertilizer on the ground from near the central
trunk to one or two feet beyond the spread of the branches. If
the plants are growing well and appear in healthy condition,
nutritional sprays are not necessary. A zinc deficiency, however,
can occur. This has shown up as a general yellowing of the new
leaves and a slowing down of growth. An application of a com-
mercial neutral zinc compound, such as Nu-Z, 3 pounds to 100
gallons of water, has brought about a return of the green color
and vigorous growth in plants showing these symptoms.
An adequate supply of water is very beneficial in promoting
good growth and maximum yields of large fruit. Rainfall is
usually sufficient during the summer and fall months, but irri-
gation is usually needed during the dry spring months. Fruits
produced during this period are often small and shriveled due
to insufficient water. When to irrigate and the amount of water
applied will depend on several factors, such as the kind of soil,
depth of the rooting system, age and size of the plants. At the
Sub-Tropical Experiment Station, plants growing in porous, well-
drained rocky soil have responded well to overhead irrigation
twice a week, the amount of water during each period being the
equivalent of approximately 1 inch of rainfall. It is not necessary
to irrigate when the plants are dormant.
When plants of the Barbados cherry become well established,
they benefit from pruning every year or every other year. Plants
producing numerous branches and forming a thick type of growth
should be thinned to promote heavier yields. Plants of some
20 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
clones, like the Florida Sweet, tend to grow upright and with an
open type of growth; these upright branches should be cut back
to encourage more side branching to keep the plant from getting
It is best to prune in September or October when the plants
have finished fruiting. An application of fertilizer should be
given after pruning. Fall pruning will encourage some new
growth to take place before the plants become dormant for the
winter. It has been found also that fall pruning and fertilizing
the plants will maintain green foliage throughout the winter.
When the plants are pruned in February or March, just previous
to the new spring growth, yields for that year will be markedly
INSECTS AND OTHER PESTS
The Barbados cherry has no serious insect pests, but occa-
sionally some may become troublesome.
Scales.-Several types of scale insects have been observed on
the twigs and leaves and these infestations may be followed by
sooty mold. Tamburo and Butcher (37) have identified these
scales as soft brown scale (Coccus hesperidiuzm (Linn.)), green
scale (C. viridis (Green)), cottony cushion scale (Icerya pur-
chasi Mask.), and 2 other types of soft scales (Saissetia sp. and
Pulvinaria urbicola Ckll.). Oil emulsion or parathion, or a mix-
ture of both, may be used if the infestations become severe. It
Fig. 10.-Two bugs and characteristic fruit injury. Top, leaf-footed
plant bug, Leptoglossus phyllopus (L.); bottom, southern green stink bug,
Nezara viridula (L.).
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 21
is not recommended, however, that the plants be sprayed during
periods of fruiting.
Plant Bugs.-At least three species of plant bugs have been
observed to sting the fruit, resulting in misshapen and pitted
fruits. The Southern green stink bug or pumpkin bug, Nezara
viridula (L.), and the leaf-footed plant bug, Leptoglossus phyl-
lopus (L.), have done the most damage to the fruit (Fig. 10).
Usually it is not necessary to apply control measures, since the
fruit flavor is not affected.
Skipper Butterfly.-The Florida dusky wing skipper butterfly
larva, Ephyriades brunnea var. floridensis B. & C., has been found
feeding on leaves of the Barbados cherry, usually being more
prevalent on plants in the lath house and nursery (Fig. 11).
The caterpillars tie the edges of two or more leaves together with
a silken thread and feed within the protected areas. Tamburo
and Butcher (37) have reported on the life history of this insect.
Lindane or benzene hexachloride can be used to control it.
Fig. 11.-Larva of the Florida dusty wing skipper, Ephyriades brunnea
var. floridensis B. & C., attacking plants in containers in the lath house.
22 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
Nematodes.-By far the most serious pest of the Barbados
cherry is the common root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne incognita
(Kofed & White) var. acrita Chitwood. This nematode weakens
the plant, causing it to drop its leaves and bringing about the
appearance of malnutrition. Severe infestations may inhibit
growth and fruit production. This root-knot nematode is one
of the limiting factors in growing the Barbados cherry in Florida.
It is more of a problem in sandy acid soils than in the alkaline
rockland soils of Dade County. In marl or clay soils root-knot
nematode is not a problem and this probably accounts for the
superior growth often obtained in these soils.
The best measure of protection against root-knot is to grow
the seeds, cuttings or air layers in sterilized soil. After the
plants are set, maintain a mulch of straw or some other suitable
material around them. Fertilize the plants regularly and water
during dry periods. If you follow these recommendations, the
plants will grow, flower and fruit well in spite of any infestation
The use of species of Malpighia that are root-knot tolerant or
resistant as rootstock for the Barbados cherry was first tried by
Sturrock in 1939 (35). Plants at the Sub-Tropical Experiment
Station grafed on Malpighia suberosa L. have not grown satis-
factorily; several have died while others remained dwarfed or
not thrifty and have produced very low yields. The possibility
of using root-knot resistant hybrids of M. suberosa with the Bar-
bados cherry as rootstock is being investigated.
Fumigating the soil where trees are to be set with DD or
some other fumigant has been suggested (20) and it might have
certain advantages. However, in the long run it is likely that
nematodes will invade the area within a year or two.
The Barbados cherry was found to be susceptible to burrow-
ing nematode, Radopholus similis (Cobb) Thorne (36). When
planted in soil infested or inoculated with this nematode, the
plants developed a poor root system, became chlorotic and showed
symptoms of decline.
YIELDS AND HARVESTING
Plants will flower and fruit the second year, but they will not
bear heavily until the third or fourth year after planting. Maxi-
mum yields are realized only with good culture-frequent ferti-
lizing, irrigation during dry weather, mulching, etc. The fruiting
season extends over three to seven months, depending on the
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 23
clone. The fruit must be picked every other day during peak
producing periods. It can be picked just as it begins to turn pink
or red. Completely ripe fruits will spoil quickly and should be
utilized as soon as possible after harvesting. Ripe fruit is ex-
tremely perishable and cannot be shipped. Half-ripe fruit, how-
ever, usually will hold up well for several days under refrigera-
To avoid damage to the thin skinned fruit, it has been sug-
gested that the picked fruit be placed in containers of water and
transported in water tanks, similar to the method used for
cherries (34). However, in Puerto Rico it was found that the
fruit lost its pigments and vitamin C when transported in water
Yields will vary with the clone, some producing more heavily
than others, and they will increase each year as the plants be-
come larger. The highest yield so far obtained at the Sub-Tropi-
cal Experiment Station was in 1957 from plants seven years in
the field. An average of 171 pounds of fruit per plant was har-
vested from the Sweet selection; this amounts to a yield of 51,300
pounds, or nearly 26 tons, per acre. (See Table 2.)
Fig. 12.-Barbados cherries as brought in from the field.
Fig. 12.--Barbados cherries as brought in from the field.
24 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
Since the fruit of the Barbados cherry is very tender and
perishable, it should be utilized as soon as possible after harvest.
It is widely used as a fresh fruit to eat out-of-hand, but the fruits
can be used in various ways-to make juice, ice, sherbet, ice
cream, jelly, preserves, punch, etc. The fruit is not very satis-
factory for pies and jams, as the pits do not separate easily from
Barbados cherry juice after pasteurization and canning loses
its bright red color and turns yellowish and the flavor becomes
hay-like (25, 31). Furthermore, the canned juice, stored at room
temperature for a period of two months, turns brown, and carbon
dioxide gas is produced, which causes swelling of the cans. How-
ever, the ascorbic acid content, though reduced, is still high. It
has been suggested (25) that the canned juice may still be used
to enrich the vitamin C content of other products, such as pear
and apricot nectar and grape juice, at a rate of 1 part Barbados
cherry juice and 27 parts of the other juice.
Frozen juice retains its bright red color and practically all
its ascorbic acid. Macfie, Mustard and Stahl (17, 23, 34) have
done considerable work on the utilization of Barbados cherry as
a frozen product.
In selecting fruit for processing, you can use half-ripe as well
as fully ripe fruit. Discard only the very green or very overripe
fruit. In extracting the juice on a large scale, use a paddle-
pulper, similar to that used in making tomato juice, to mash the
fruit and to eject the seeds and pulp. An electric blender may
be used provided it is not used too long, as the stones will be
chopped up and add a bitter flavor to the juice.
Some of the products that can be made from the Barbados
cherry are the following:
Ice.-One of the easiest and most satisfactory methods of
utilizing the fruit is as a frozen juice or ice. The fruit is washed,
mashed, put through a sieve to take out the pulp and seeds; sugar
is added and the mixture frozen. The juice can be frozen in
any type of ice box container-plastic box, polyethylene bag
or even a paper milk carton. When served, the ice is cut into
squares as individual pieces and served while still frozen. The
ice cubes can be used also in iced tea, limeade or lemonade.
Juice.-The freshly squeezed, strained and sweetened juice
can be served as a delicious and refreshing fresh fruit drink.
The Barbados or West Indian Cherry 25
Lime juice may be added to make the following product: 1 part
Barbados cherry juice, 1 part lime juice and 1 part sugar. This
mixture is frozen in containers similar to those used for concen-
trated citrus juices. When serving, add 3 parts water to 1 part
frozen juice. If you prefer, omit the lime juice. The frozen
mixture is probably one of the most promising uses of the Barba-
dos cherry, but it has not been thoroughly explored commercially.
A puree can be made by adding sugar and sufficient citrus
pectin to produce the desired consistency. This is frozen and
used to make a punch with limeade or for topping ice cream.
The juice blends well with mango concentrate and also with
lime, lemon, grapefruit, pineapple and soursop. It can be used
in juices and nectars of fruits that are considered poor sources
of vitamin C, such as apple, pear, grape, apricot, cherry and
peach. It also blends well with orange juice and can be used to
build up the flavor, color and ascorbic acid content of certain types
of low solid orange juices. In these blends a proportion of 1 to 10
produces a juice having more vitamin C than an average glass
of orange juice.
One commercial use of acerolaa" juice is as an additive to
apple juice to supply a natural source of vitamin C for baby food
The juice blends well with rum and gin to make a refreshing
drink. It can also be fermented to make a wine.
It has been suggested (19) that the juice be used as an anti-
oxidant for preserving the color of dried and frozen fruits. The
ascorbic acid is used with citric acid for this purpose. The mix-
ture is effective in preventing browning which takes place during
the drying and freezing of many fruits, such as peaches.
Syrup.-To the freshly squeezed juice, add pectin and sugar
to make a light syrup. Use this over ice cream, pancakes, waffles,
cereal and fresh fruit slices.
Ice Cream.-The syrup can be mixed with vanilla ice cream
or injected into it to make a variegated or ribbon type, similar
to the new type of orange and mango ice creams (10).
Preserves.-The fruits can be cooked whole, with added sugar,
taking care not to cook them to a mush, and sealed in jars as a
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26 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
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28 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
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