The California bay is a very tall tree (20-30 m) which is renowned for its many medicinal, nutritional and artisanal properties.
|Common name||Suriname cherry, pitanga, Cayenne cherry|
|Binominal name||Eugenia uniflora Berg.|
|Synonyme||Eugenia bergii Nied. in Engl. & Prantl|
|Régions d'origine||South America|
Eugenia is a genus named in honour of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Uniflora means “which bears solitary flowers”.
Description and flowering period
This cone-shaped shrub can reach up to 8 meters in height. Its opposite lanceolate leaves are bronze in colour when young and later turn a shiny dark shade of green. In winter, they turn completely red. Its white flowers – either solitary or in small clusters – bear numerous slender stamens. They are very fragrant and highly attractive to bees. The fruits are small juicy berries which are highly sought after by birds who disseminate the seeds. There are a lot of different varieties of Suriname cherry offering a wide range of flavours from sweet to sour as well as spicy.
It requires prefers a predominantly sandy free-draining soil in a warm and humid climate. It can withstand occasional light frost. The species is highly pest-resistant.
- Ornamental, especially in hedges or in the bonsai trade.
- Food & drink: The fruit which is rich in vitamin C, is used in jams or jellies or eaten raw with sugar just like strawberries; the leaves are infused to make tea in Uruguay.
- Household item: The leaves are scattered inside the home as they release a scent when bruised by footsteps which repulses flies.
- Medicinal: In Brazil, leaves are infused for their effects on stomach-aches, fevers and their astringent properties, also used against colds in Suriname. Its essential oil is also used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure.
The seeds are extremely sticky and should not be eaten. The bark peels off in large chunks in older subjects.
Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN
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