Pitangatuba: The distinctive star cherry

The native Brazilian Pitangatuba is an indispensable, easy-care, evergreen shrub that produces juicy, delicious fruits. The yellow fruit, commonly referred to as a star cherry, resembles a star fruit and has a pit like a typical cherry in the middle. The sour fruit is a combination of sweet and sour with a hint of tropical fruit flavors such as mango, passion fruit and pineapple. Star cherry thrives in the heat and requires mild winters. Fortunately, it can be brought indoors for protection in winter, so it can grow almost anywhere.

Pitangatuba can be grown as a shrub or a small tree. Due to its manageable size, attractive dark green foliage, disease and pest resistance, and delicious fruits, it would be a wonderful addition to the edible landscape. It can grow in full or partial sun, and can be grown in a pot or on the ground.

Depending on your climate, pitangatuba fruits produce most of the year with heavier fruiting seasons in spring and summer. The juicy fruits are extremely tender and spoil quickly after ripening, making buying quality fruits almost impossible. Fruit can be eaten off the plant or used in juices, smoothies, jams / jellies, and ice creams.

This unrecognized plant is incredibly versatile and easy to grow, although it can be difficult to find at a local store. There are a handful of online retailers who can deliver plants or seeds to your home.

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Brief instructions for care

Pitangatuba or star cherry is an unusual tropical fruit. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Common Name (s) Pitangatuba, star cherry, surinam cherry
Scientific name Eugenia selloi (Eugenia neonitida)
Days to harvest 3-4 weeks after flowering
light Full sun to partial sun
Water: Moderate to high
ground Well-draining, high organic content
fertilizer 2-3 times a year with a balanced fertilizer
Pests Scales and caterpillars
Diseases Root rot and leaf spot

Everything about Pitangatuba

Eugenia unifloraEugenia uniflora is a close relative of Pitangatuba.

Eugenia selloi (originally Eugenia neonitida) is known as pitangatuba, pitang and star cherry. It is almost identical and is often confused with Eugenia uniflora, the Suriname cherry. The fruit of Eugenia uniflora is slightly smaller than the star cherry and the fruit is red when fully ripe. Both species are native to Brazil. The genus Eugenia, along with guava, allspice and eucalyptus, belongs to the Myrtaceae or myrtle family.

Eugenia selloi is grown as an evergreen bush or small tree. The dark green leaves are glossy, opposite and oval with a pointed tip. The Pitangatuba can grow up to 9 feet tall, but usually stays between 4 and 6 feet tall. The flowers are white with four petals and the fruits are green as they develop and light yellow in color when ripe. The fruit is about the size of a small apricot and the outside resembles a star fruit with less defined edges. Star cherries have thick, juicy edible flesh that surrounds a large seed or two. The fruit is quite sour, but sweetens as it ripens.

Star cherries are not grown commercially because they are extremely delicate and spoil after a few days. For this reason, no specific cultivars have been established. Plants are commonly grown from seeds, so there are a range of growth characteristics, fruit size, and fruit flavor. Genetics play a huge role in fruit production. Some shrubs produce a lot of flowers but don't plant a lot of fruit.

Eugenia selloi blooms and bears sporadically all year round depending on the climate. Spring and summer are the heavy bloom times. The ripening of the fruits takes 3-4 weeks. Star cherry is self-fertile, but produces more fruit when cross-pollinated. Plants start fruiting in 2-3 years when grown from seeds.


Star cherries can be planted in a large pot or on the ground. Good drainage is essential to growing a healthy plant. If drainage is poor, replenish with organic matter and plant in a raised bed or hill. Shrubs are often grown from seeds but can be grafted to replicate specific properties.

The best time to plant is in spring when temperatures are mild. Star cherries are sensitive to cold. So plant in a warm, sunny place. If summers are too warm, consider planting in a location with filtered light or partial shade

Always acclimate pitangatubas for over two weeks before planting them in full sun to avoid scorching the leaves. Ripe pitangatubas require at least a 15-gallon pot. When planting in the ground, dig a hole twice the size of the root ball. Cover and cover the bottom to retain moisture and regulate temperature.


Immature pitangatubaWhen the pitangatuba is immature, it will blend in with its foliage.

Pitangatubas are extremely easy to care for. You will keep growing with minimal effort. Follow the instructions below to grow a healthy, high-yielding plant.

Sun and temperature

Star cherry grows well in full or partial sun and receives at least 6 hours of sunlight. Afternoon shade or filtered sun is best in warmer areas that are consistently above 85 ° F or more in summer.

Star cherries can be grown in USDA Zones 10-11 or 4-11 when brought indoors during the winter. They are more sensitive to cold temperatures, which is where cold damage occurs when temperatures drop slightly below freezing. However, they thrive in the summer heat. While they work best when given some shade when temperatures rise above 85 ° F, it is not required.

Water and moisture

Keep the soil moist, but not too moist. If the soil is dried too much, the roots will be damaged. Provide additional water when they are blooming and fruiting without constantly keeping the soil saturated. Monitor moisture levels in winter and rainy seasons, and reduce watering if necessary.

Drip irrigation and drinking hoses should be used for plants embedded in the ground to prevent runoff. Plants in a container can be flushed with drip irrigation or manually with a hose.


Star cherries need well-drained soil to thrive. They can survive in nutrient-poor soils, but the rate of growth and fruit production are affected. For optimal growth, keep the soil pH between 6.1 and 7.5 and absorb plenty of organic matter.


Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 twice a year in spring and summer. Follow the fertilizer label for prices and instructions.


In winter, prune bushes or trees to shape and remove dead twigs and branches. If you are growing pitangatuba as a small tree, cut off the lower branches to reveal a central trunk. Then prune to keep 3-5 main branches. Choose strong branches that don't overlap.

Pitangatuba is non-deciduous, so don't wait for a bare shrub to come before you prune it. Pitangatuba bushes are naturally small, so cutting should be minimal. Old fruits should naturally fall. Old fruits can be broken down by shaking the plant.


The most common method of propagation is sowing. Finding viable seeds can be challenging as they do not dry well and cannot tolerate cold storage. It is best to plant seeds within 10 days of removing them from the fruit. Seeds are slow to germinate and can take around 4 weeks to germinate.

Grafting is an option for replicating certain characteristics. Since there are no established varieties, the properties of plants and fruits are very different. Older plants can be processed from above using the fissure graft technique. This is especially useful when the plant is not producing a lot of fruit or the fruit quality is poor. Young seedlings can also be grafted.

Harvesting and storing

Savanna Pitanga versus PitangatubaA comparison of Savanna Pitanga (Eugenia Pitanga) and star cherry (Eugenia Selloi). Source: Wikimedia Commons

Star cherries are extremely easy to harvest. While they are not well stored fresh, there are some ways to preserve fruit so that it does not go to waste.


Fruit is ready for harvest when it turns light yellow or yellow-orange, or in E. uniflora when it turns completely red. Star cherries peel off easily when they are ripe. There is no need to pull or pull fruit. Fruit isn't ready when it has to be forced. Do not collect fruit that has fallen on the ground, as it will be damaged and contaminated. Carefully wash the fruit before eating.


Star cherries only last about a day, or a few days if you're lucky. They should be eaten or used immediately after harvest. For long-term storage, fruits can be frozen or preserved as jam or jelly. The pits must be removed before freezing or preserving.


Ripe and unripe star cherriesDifferent stages of unripe, ripe and overripe Eugenia uniflora fruits.

Pitangatuba shrubs are very easy to care for. They have almost no problems with diseases or pests. While growing issues are rare, the following are some issues you may encounter.

Growing problems

However, some shrubs will grow a lot of flowers bring very little fruit. This is most likely due to the genetics of the plant. When growing star cherries from seeds, the properties of the plant are only known until they are ripe. The bush may or may not be a good fruit producer, or the fruit flavor may not be as desirable. Topworking, or grafting, a better quality pitangatuba onto a lower powered pitangatuba is an excellent option for swapping out an unwanted plant without starting over.

Bad drainage or Overwatering will stunt growth and create an overall unhealthy plant. The bush can drop leaves and is less fertile. Improving drainage or watering less will fix this problem.


Soft and armored scales can be found on the twigs and twigs of trees and bushes. There are different types of scales of different colors, from yellow to brown to black. Damage doesn't usually come straight from the scales. Dandruff excretes excessive amounts of honeydew, which leads to sooty mold. Sooty mold covers the foliage, which inhibits photosynthesis and leads to leaf droplets. The dandruff is usually controlled with natural predators and parasites. When treatment is required, oil sprays are effective.

Caterpillars can be found on leaves that cause chewing marks and distorted or curled leaves. Damage should not have a significant impact on Pitangatuba. Caterpillars can be physically removed or chemically treated with an organic pesticide such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and spinosad. It is very unlikely that chemical application will be required.


Root rot Diseases are rare but can occur when plants are overwatered or when drainage is poor. Signs of root rot are light green to yellow leaves and leaf drops. Treatment is not required. Avoid overwatering and plant in a place that will not remain flooded or saturated.

Leaf spots can occur during the rainy season. The damage is usually minimal and treatment is not required. The damage can be eliminated by pruning.

frequently asked Questions

Q: How do star cherries taste?

A: Star cherries have a unique tropical cake flavor. The taste is often compared to mango, pineapple and passion fruit.

Q: Are Suriname Cherries Poisonous to Dogs?

A: Surinam cherries are not poisonous to dogs, but the seeds can cause diarrhea in dogs if given whole fruit.

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