The Myrtle (Myrtaceae) family contains a large number of tropical fruit trees, many of which can be incorporated into an edible landscape design. There is a wide variation in size, coloration and texture as well as fruit characteristic in this highly diverse plant family.
The most well known myrtle fruit is the guava (Psidium guajava) which is a very important economic fruit that comes in many varieties.
Guavas are especially desirable as a tree selection in that they fruit year round and they are evergreen and the bark has a mottled, camouflage pattern that is visually attractive. Other guava relatives are the Cattley guava, very commonly used in tropical landscapes and the Feijoa (ineapple guava).
The Cattley guava, while very attractive, has an excessively seedy pulp which is often filled with fruit fly larvae due to it’s thin skin. Perhaps the most unusual member of the Myrtle family, from a tropical fruit landscaping perspective is the Jaboticaba (Myrciaria caulifora).
This species, which originated in Brazil, is a popular fruit bearing tree. Jaboticaba trees are slow-growing, shrubby, are profusely branched, beginning close to the ground and slanting upward and outward.
The thin outer bark, like that of the guava, flakes off, leaving light patches. Jaboticabas can be grouped with other members of the Myrtle family or its close Eugenia relatives.
The fruit of the Jaboticaba looks very much like a large concord grape and forms in clusters along the trunk and branches. This tree, when mature can produce fruit up to 8 times per years and can be relied upon to have fruit when other trees are out of season.
The Eugenias comprise a very interesting and attractive group of plants with some excellent fruit characteristics. Like the Jaboticaba most all Eugenias originated in Brazil.
Eugenia aggregata or the “Cherry of the Rio Grande” is similar in appearance and flavor to a Bing cherry. Other fruit in the Eugenia group are the Grumichama (Eugenia Brasiliensis), the Pitomba (Eugenia uschnathiana), Surinam Cherry (Eugenia uniflora) and the Araza (Eugneia stipitata).
All of the Eugenias are relatively small, shrub like and slow growing. They can be grouped with other types of tropical fruit trees to create a layered effect and are very useful as screening plants along borders and in front of windows.
Another member of the Myrtle family, widely used as a spice and in ethnic cooking preprations is the Allspice (Pimenta dioica). This beautiful evergreen tree, cultivated for its well know fruit on the Island of Jamaica, is relatively slow growing.
When crushed the leaves of the Allpsice emit a very pungent and aromatic fragrance. These leaves can be used in barbecuing fish or meat and impart the same spicy flavor as the scent.
Constant Comment tea is predominantly flavored with Allspice. After a summer rainfall,, the fragrance of Allspice is exceptionally pronounced when walking in a grove of these trees.