Muntingia calabura: Jamaica cherry tree

Family: Muntingiaceae
Common name: Jamaica cherry, Strawberry tree, Panama cherry, Singapore cherry, Jam tree, Cotton candy berry, Calabura

Jamaica cherry tree is seen in the mostly unlikely places; roadsides where no other tree can take root because they are very resilient. These trees can grow to a height of 20-40 feet with dense branches and a beautiful foliage. The leaves are dark green on top, light green below and covered with tiny hairs. An interesting feature of the leaves is that they are asymmetrical at the base, one half being slightly broader than the other.

They produce small white flowers with five distinct petals and sepals. Jamaica cherry trees are also called Strawberry trees since the flowers look like that of the strawberry plant, with many yellows stamens standing pretty over the yellow petals. The berries are edible, turning yellow or red with many tiny seeds inside.

The berries have an oozy, liquidy pulp with many seeds, giving it a fig-like sweetness and texture. Their beautiful flowers and edible berries attract birds who eat them, thus helping in dispersal of seeds. Jamaica cherry trees sprout readily in all kinds of soil and temperatures. They can withstand extreme temperatures, poor soil conditions, lack of direct sunlight and also pollution, making it ideal for Indian roads.

Jamaican cherry trees also grow in vacant lots, hillsides, coastal areas, almost anywhere it can take root. Jamaica cherry trees are quite beneficial, since the berries can be eaten raw or cooked, and is a good source of Vitamin C. Flowers have anti-septic properties, and is used to treat headaches. The wood of this tree is used in making paper pulp, and also for making small boxes or other small carpentry items.

Propagation is from seeds or by layering.

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