Surinam Cherry, also known as Brazilian cherry, Cayenne cherry or Florida cherry, is a shrub that grows to a height of 25 ft. The shrub is known for its slender branches and aromatic foliage. The leaves change color as they age – from a bronze when they are young to a deep green when they are slightly old. During strong winters, the leaves turn red.
The flowers are long-stalked and borne either singly or in clusters of four while the fruit is ribbed and oblate. It turns a dark maroon on ripening and has a slightly acidic but highly delicious flesh. As the name suggests, the plant is a native of Surinam but can now be found in different parts of the world. In Florida it is used as a hedge plant while in temperate climates it is grown as an ornamental potted plant.
It is a tough and hardy shrub and enjoys growing in full sun. It has deep roots and can weather dry periods for long time. It is also not finicky about soils and can grow in almost any kind of soil. Its main mode of propagation is seeds that germinate within three to four weeks of falling on the ground.
The Surinam seedlings take time to grow. The first fruits are borne after two to three years, sometimes even ten years. The fruiting is especially affected if the plant is pruned. It also has to suffer attacks from Caribbean and Mediterranean fruit flies which are greatly attracted to Surinam cherries.
The Surinam cherries are used to make jams and jellies besides being eaten ripe. In some countries, like Brazil, they are fermented to produce liquor. The Brazilians also use the Surinam Cherry leaves to repel flies and to cure minor ailments.