|Fig. 106: Little-known, the orange-yellow pitomba (Eugenia luschnathiana) is of fair size and thick-fleshed when well-irrigated and fertilized.|
It is an attractive, slow-growing tree to 20 or 30 ft (6-9 m) high, with dense foliage. The evergreen, opposite, short-petioled, oblong-lanceolate leaves, 1 to 3 in (2.5-7.5 cm) long, are glossy, dark-green on the upper surface, paler beneath. New growth is temporarily coated with bronze hairs on the underside. The long-stalked, 4-petalled, white flowers are borne singly in the leaf axils.
The fruit, broad-obovate, faintly 4-lobed, 1 to 1 1/4 in (2.5-3.2 cm) long, is bright orange-yellow with 4 or 5 green sepals 1/2 in (1.25 cm) long protruding from the apex. The skin is thin, tender, and the pulp golden-yellow, apricot-like in texture, soft, melting, juicy, aromatic and slightly acid, faintly resinous in flavor. In the central cavity there may be one round seed or 2 to 4 irregular, angular seeds, light-tan and 3/8 to 5/8 in (1-1.6 cm) in diameter.
This little-known species is native to the State of Bahia, Brazil, is cultivated to a limited extent locally and is grown in the botanical garden in Rio de Janeiro. Seeds were brought to the United States from Brazil by plant explorers for the federal Department of Agriculture in 1914 (S.P.I. #37017). A very few specimens, scarcely more than shrubs, have been grown to the fruiting stage in southern Florida. The pitomba was at first considered promising for this area but has made no progress at all in the last 40 years.
When in good soil, well-fertilized and frequently and heavily watered, the tree begins to bear when less than 3 1/2 ft (a little over 1 m) high. There is much variation in the size of fruits produced by seedlings. Sturrock made some selections and grafted them successfully. Flowers appear in late spring and early summer in Florida and the fruiting season is in midsummer. In Brazil the fruits ripen in November and December. The fruits are there used mainly for jelly, preserves, and carbonated beverages.