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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Sub-Iropical Experiment Station
4Mimeographed Report No. 14 June 1948
University of Florida
SUB-TROPICAL EXPERIMrTT STATION
THE BABADOS OF WST IIDIAT CHERSY I if.ORIDA
A marked increase in interest in Florida has been noted recently in the fruit of
the Barbados or Test Indian Cherry. The extremely high ascorbic acid content of
the fruits of this shrub and their successful use in the preparation of jellies,
jams, and sherbets has received considerable publicity in the local press and
There are at present no lakon commercial plantings of the Barbados Cherry in
Florida. Its present distribution is confined to scattered specimens or occasion-
ally small groups of specimens located in grove, estate or back yard plantings
in the southern portion of Florida. It has been reported as being too tender to
withstand the climatic conditions experienced in the northern -ortion of the State.
Much confusion exists in the literature over the botanical nomenclature of the
Barbados or West Indian Cherry. Malpighia :glabra L. and Mi. ounicifolia L. have
both been used with reference to the plants grotn in South Florida.
The Barbados Cherry is native to the WTest Indies, northern South America, Central
America and Mexico to Southern Texas.
The plant has a spreading much branches. shrub habit, pith older specimens
occasionally reaching a height of twelve feet or more and a similar spread.
The mature leaves are deep green and shiny on the upoer surface and measure 3/4
to 3 inches in length, 3/8 to 1 3/g inches wide, and are variously shaped, usually
being ovate to obovate. The leaves are entire and are often undulate.
The soft thin -skinned bright red "cherry like" fruits are borne in the leaf
axils either individually or in clusters of tro or three fruits. Mature fruits
vary in size from less than 1 inch to over an inch in diameter. The fruits are
noticeably three lobed and contain three leathery three-ringed seeds. The seeds
account for approximately 20 percent of the volume of the fruit.
The axillary unbellate white to rose coloured five petalled flo6ers usually
appear in April in South Florida rith the first crop of fruit maturing early in
May. Flowering continues through the summer months and it is customary for two,
three and occasionally four crops of fruit to mature prior to December.
Practically all of the plants of Barbados Cherry of.er.r for sale by the local
nurseries and those plants established in South 'loridCa plantings are of seedling
origin. Much variation is to be observed in thise plants. The ascorbic acid
content has been observed to vary almost 300% in analyses of the fruits. Never-
theless, of all species of fruits thus far analyzed, the fruits of the Barbados
Cherry are by far the richest source of ascorbic acid so far discovered.
The fruits are characteristically acid in flavour although variations in degree
of acidity is often noted when tasting ripe fruits of different seedling plants.
A plant bearing rather sweet fruits has been found ahd is under observation at
Although propagation by seed is the method most practiced difficulty in germina-
tion is often encountered as many of the seeds do not contain viable embryos.
Frequently less than 5' of the seed will be found to germinate due to the failure
of embryo development.
A preferred method is propagation by hardwood cuttings. Cuttings should be pro-
cured from quality fruited heavy bearing plants whenever possible,
High percentages of rooted cuttings can be obtained within sixty days by using
leafy hardwood cuttings of 4 to 6 inches in length having a diameter of 1/8 to
3/8 inch and placed in a propagation frame containing an equal mixture of sharp
sand and screened peat moss, the cuttings prior to insertion in the propagation
frame being treated with .2% Indolebutyric acid.
It has also been reported that budding has been successfully used in the propa-
gation of selected Barbados Cherry plants.
Experimental data is not available as to the optimum spacing for plantings of
Barbados Cherry. If a block plantin,-: is desired and. here the -*lants rill receive
adequate fertilizer and irrigation it seems advisable at this timne to recommend
spacing the plants 12' 15' apart in rows 15' apart. Planting holes at least a
foot in diameter and of equal Repth should be prepared and topsoil mixed rith
compost should be worked into the hole.
Where rooted cuttings are the source of planting stock these should first be
established in 6" to 8" pots before transplanting to their permanent field lo-
cation. Where seedlings are used thee should be grotn on in similar sized
containers before transplanting to the field Mulch and water the plants well
Then setting them in their permanent field location.
Cultivation and Fertilization
The Barbados Cherry is subject to rootkcAot. Keeping the plants nell mulched will
lesser the incidence and degree of infestation.
As soil conditions vary in Florida no one specific fertilizer caz be recommended
for the culture of this fruit plant. However, it is an established fact that the
major elements are in deficient quantities in Florida soils. Rather frequent
applications of 1 to 2 lbs. of a well balanced fertilizer during the flowering
and fruiting period for mature bearing shrubs should be adequate on most soils.
As our soils are also deficient in available copper and zinc it has been observed
that the Barbados Cherry responds markedly to small applications of those essen-
tial elements. These elements can be applied directly to the soil where acid
sandy conditions prevail or preferably should be applied to the foliage in a liquid
spray form where the plants are growing on calcareous soils.
During the early spring months when the rains are intermittent it is advisable
to irrigate, otherwise the quantity and quality of the first crop of fruit will
Bees are exceptionally fond of the Barbados Cherry and are the principal pollina-
tors of this fruit.
Diseases and Posts
A number of insects attack the Barbados Cherry, including the Florida 7ax Scale,
Mango Scale, White Fly, a loaf roller, and plant bugs which puncture the fruits
causing a dimpled and irregular appearance of the ripe fruits.
Control measures as yet have not been worked out for the pot attacking the