Barbados cherry develops into a thick, rounded canopy of fairly delicate foliage (Fig. 1). Small pink flowers appear periodically from April to October and are followed about one month later by bright red, tart-tasting, 1-inch fruits which are extremely high in vitamin C. It is commonly available in nurseries throughout south Florida.
Scientific name: Malpighia glabra
Pronunciation: mal-PIG-ee-uh GLAY-bruh
Common name(s): Barbados cherry
Plant type: tree
USDA hardiness zones: 9B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: specimen; container or above-ground planter; border; hedge; near a deck or patio; screen
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant
Height: 10 to 12 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Plant habit: round
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: lanceolate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: pink
Flower characteristic: summer flowering
Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch
Fruit cover: fleshy
Fruit color: red
Fruit characteristic: suited for human consumption; persists on the plant; attracts birds
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/bark/branches: not particularly showy; typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: brown
Current year stem/twig thickness: thin
Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests
Use and Management
This open, upright, evergreen shrub grows at a slow pace to 12 feet tall and wide, making it well-suited as a foundation planting for larger buildings or used in the rear of the shrubbery border. Trained to numerous multitrunks, it can be used as a small accent tree just as Japanese ligustrum is used. The multitrunks rise sinuously up through the crown creating a sculptured specimen well-suited for placing near a patio, deck or entry way to attract attention. It looks great lighted at night from below the tree.
Growing in full sun or partial shade, Barbados cherry needs fertile, nematode-free soil and is not salt-tolerant.
Plant 5 to 6 feet apart for a mass planting or to develop a tall, thick screen.
Propagation is by layering or cuttings.
Pests and Diseases
Pests include nematodes, whiteflies, scale, and plant bugs, which will attack and deform the fruit.