Index | Search | Home | Morton

Morton, J. 1987. Cattley Guava. p. 363–364. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.

Cattley Guava

Psidium cattleianum Sabine

Psidium littorale Raddi

Psidium chinense Hort.

Much more attractive in foliage and fruit than the common guava, the cattley guava, Psidium cattleianum Sabine (syns. P. littorale Raddi; P. chinense Hort.), is also known as the strawberry or purple guava, Chinese guava, Calcutta guava, araca da praia (Brazil), araza (Uruguay), cas dulce (Costa Rica), guayaba japonesa (Guatemala), and guayaba peruana (Venezuela). In Hawaii, the yellow-fruited is called waiawi, and the red-fruited waiawi ulaula.

Red Cattley guava
Fig. 99: Red Cattley guava (Psidium cattleianum) (left) and the yellow (var. lucidum) are flavorful but seedy. The trees are very ornamental.


A fairly slow-growing shrub or small tree, the cattley guava generally ranges from 6.5 to 14 ft (2-4 m) tall but the yellow-fruited may attain 40 ft (12 m). Both have slender, smooth, brown-barked stems and branches, and alternate, evergreen, obovate, dark, smooth, glossy, somewhat leathery leaves 1 1/3 to 4 3/4 in (3.4-12 cm) long and 5/8 to 2 1/3 in (1.6-6 cm) wide. The fragrant flowers, 5/8 to 2 1/3 in(1.5-6 cm) wide are white with prominent stamens about 3/4 in (2 cm) long, and are borne singly or in 3's in the leaf axils. The fruit is round or obovoid, 1 to 1 1/2 in (2.5-4 cm) long, tipped with the protruding 4- to 5-parted calyx; thin-skinned, dark-red or purple-red or, in variety lucidum, lemon-yellow. Red-skinned fruits have white flesh more or less reddish near the skin. Yellow-skinned fruits have faintly yellowish flesh. In both types, the flesh is aromatic, about 1/8 in (3 mm) thick, surrounding the central juicy, somewhat translucent pulp filled with hard, flattened-triangular seeds 3/32 in (2.5 mm) long. Free of the muskiness of the common guava, the flavor is somewhat strawberry-like, spicy, subacid.

Origin and Distribution

The cattley guava is believed native to the lowlands of eastern Brazil, especially near the coast. It is cultivated to a limited extent in other areas of South America and Central America and in the West Indies, Bermuda, the Bahamas, southern and central Florida and southern California. A commercial planting of about 3,000 trees was established at La Mesa, California, around 1884 and the trees were still producing heavily a half century later. Today there is much more use of the cattley guava as an ornamental hedge than as a fruit tree. It is grown occasionally in subtropical Africa, and in highlands of the Philippines at elevations up to 5,000 ft (1,500 m), India, Ceylon and Malaya. It was introduced into Singapore in 1877 and at various times thereafter but failed to survive at low altitudes. In Hawaii, it has become naturalized in moist areas, forming dense, solid stands, and is subject to eradication in range lands. It is one of the major "weed trees" of Norfolk Island; has escaped into pastures and woods at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 ft (457-914 m) in Jamaica.


No named cultivars are reported but there is considerable variation, apart from the distinct botanical variety lucidum. Types with pubescent foliage are seen in cultivation in tropical America.


The red cattley guava is hardier than the common guava and can survive temperatures as low as 22º F (-5.56º C). It can succeed wherever the orange is grown without artificial heating. The yellow is tenderer and its climatic requirements are similar to those of the lemon. Both kinds flourish in full sun.


The cattley guava does well in limestone and poor soils that would barely support other fruit trees. It is shallow-rooted but the red type is fairly drought tolerant. The yellow is able to endure flooding for short periods.


The tree is not easily multiplied by budding or grafting because of its thin bark. It can be propagated by layering or rooting of soft tip cuttings or root cuttings, but is usually grown from seed even though seedlings of the red type vary in habit of growth, fruit size and seediness, also bearing season. The yellow comes fairly true from seed.


Cultural information is scant except that irrigation is necessary to obtain full-size fruits on poor soil, and the tree benefits from mulching when grown in limestone. Seedlings are set out 10 ft (3 m) apart in rows 10 ft (3 m) apart.

Cropping and Yield

On good soil and under irrigation, the cattley guava has yielded 30 tons from 5 acres (2 ha). In India, it bears two crops a year, one in July and August and another in January and February. Near the coast in California, fruits ripen continuously from August to March; inland the season is shorter, October to December.

Keeping Quality

The fresh fruit is very perishable when fully ripe and can be kept only 3 to 4 days at room temperature. For shipping, the fruit must be picked slightly unripe, handled carefully and refrigerated during transit. Generally it is sent to local processors instead of to fresh fruit markets. Hawaiian-grown fruits, slightly underripe, were stored at 32º to 36º F (0º-2.22º C) for a month and were found shriveled and decomposed. Accordingly, much higher temperatures are recommended.

Pests and Diseases

The cattley guava is usually reported as disease- and pest-free. In California, there are occasional infestations of the greenhouse thrips (Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis). The Caribbean fruit fly attacks the fruits in southern Florida and wherever this pest abounds. In India, birds compete with humans for the ripe fruits.

Food Uses

Cattley guavas are eaten out-of-hand without preparation except the removal of the calyx. A delicious puree or tart-filling can be made by trimming and cooking 6 cups of red cattleys with 1 cup water and 2 cups granulated sugar and pressing through a sieve. The resulting 3 cups of puree will be subacid, spicy and a dull, old-rose in color. Commercial growers ship to, factories which convert the fruits into jelly, jam, butter, paste and sherbet. In Hawaii, either half-ripe or full-ripe cattleys are cut in half, boiled, and the juice strained to make ade or punch.

Food Value

Analyses of ripe fruits in the Philippines, Hawaii and Florida have shown the following constituents:

Red: seeds, 6%; water, 81.73-84.9%; ash, 0.74-1.50%; crude fiber, 6.14%; protein, 0.75-1-03%; fat, 0.55%; total sugar, 4.42-4.46%.

Yellow: seeds, 10.3%; water, 84.2%; ash, 0.63-0.75%; crude fiber, 3.87%; protein, 0.80%; fat, 0.42%; total sugar, 4.32-10.01%.

Red or Yellow: ascorbic acid, 22-50 mg/100 g. Calories per 2.2 lbs (1 kg), 268.