Jaboticaba bonsai trees make a graceful, fruiting bonsai. When new, leaves are soft and almost pink, they develop into a somewhat glossy dark green as they age.
By their nature they are upright trees and are rarely styled otherwise. Even though straight, the trunks have a graceful, gentle movement. The tree branches profusely and makes a beautiful single tree. Two or three together make nice groupings.
Scientific Name: Myrciaria cauliflora or Eugenia cauliflora syn.(Cauliflorous is an adjective referring to the production of flowers and fruit forming on the trunks and often older branches of trees.)
Common names are Jaboticaba, Brazilian Grape, Jabotica, Jabuticaba and others, depending on the country.
The tree branches profusely and two or three together make nice groupings. The leaves are soft and almost pink when new, they develop into a somewhat glossy dark green as they age.
The jaboticaba bark is thin, reddish and flaky. Occasionally patches peel off, leaving an attractive variation in color, as shown here. (Looks similar to the guava, a long distance relative.)
The most exciting things about Myrciaria bonsai trees are the creamy white (fluffy looking) flowers and the dark purple grape-like fruit growing directly on the trunk.
From flower to fruit takes 21-25 days. The "grapes" are edible and tasty. (They've also been know to produce a fine wine.)
Many trees in nature have one apex. The shape of this small tree in the ground is often comprised of at two dominant tops, if not more. With careful and continued pruning, you can maintain a beautiful mature tree-like crown. If you decide to have a single trunk line, the tree will still attempt to generate several tops, rather than the one you have chosen.
In the trees shown above, you can see how both Jim Smith (left) and bonsai friend Jean Smith (right) used the multiple tops to their advantage.
Myrciaria c. are most often propagated from seed. It takes approximately two years to develop a small seedling. Seedlings are slow to mature and rarely endure the transplanting and trimming of bonsai hobbyists. However, older plants, are very tolerant of pruning of both roots and branches. Jaboticaba may also be grown from cuttings and air layers. Although, they are very slow to develop.
Because it is slow growing, and takes 8-15 years to bear fruit from seed, bonsai hobbyists generally begin this bonsai with established nursery stock or pre-bonsai.
Trimming leaves and small branches can be done year round. Major branch pruning is best done in spring and summer. Check the roots annually, but it is unlikely your tree will need yearly root pruning. The best seasons for potting and repotting are spring and summer.
When you repot, do not trim roots as you may a Ficus and don’t expect Myrciaria c. to respond like a Ficus. Jaboticaba is a slow responder, especially if you hard prune the roots.
In 1957, Miami,FL bonsai pioneer Jim Wilkins created the first known jaboticaba bonsai in this country.
The following year Jim introduced Joe Samuels to bonsai (and his jaboticaba). Jim Wilkins was disabled and pointed to show Joe where to cut. He worked on this tree for many years. This is how Joe Samuels first learned bonsai. Jim and Joe are both gone. Now over 50 years old, the same tree is still being cared for by Jim and Barbara's son Gary Wilkins.
This tree is a proven winner as an "indoor bonsai." It was featured in a 1986 publication of the book 'Indoor Bonsai' by well known German bonsai artist Paul Lesniewicz.
As with other tropicals, the Myrciaria c. performs best in warm temperatures and bright light. It will tolerate low temperatures for a short period but not frost or freezes.
This is an easy to care for bonsai. Jaboticaba bonsai trees tolerate both full sun and full shade. Keep evenly moist but not soaking wet.
The occasional “burned tips” are most often caused by lack of micro-nutrients. As it is an acid loving plant, use an organic fertilizer or look for a fertilizer stating that it is an “acid type.” Jaboticaba bonsai trees are hungry, don’t skip the feedings.
Aphids are the most likely nuisance indoors and out. They love the new growth.Safer Brand 5452 3-in-1 32-Ounce Ready-to-Use Garden Spray is a good option!
Overall, this tree is susceptible to very few pests and/or diseases.
You may have heard the myth that these trees do not fruit in a bonsai pot. They do! Being in a pot has nothing to do with fruiting. If your tree does not fruit, it probably isn't old enough, not being fed properly or being grown indoors.
Many years ago, the late Jim Smith told me “My oldest jaboticaba bonsai, created by John Naka in 1973 produces fruit every year.”
When you create or purchase your jaboticaba, be sure it is well rooted. If it is loose in the bonsai pot, secure the tree tightly with wire. Water cautiously. Few roots take very little water. (Root rot from overwatering sparse rootage, can be a serious problem.)
One of the biggest problems is finding a good jaboticaba bonsai tree with a substantial trunk! Because they are slow to develop, larger trees can be expensive.
Find the right one and it's worth the price!