Barbados Cherry

Scientific Name(s): Malpighia glabra and other Malpighia species
Abundance: common
What: flowers, berries
How: flowers raw or tea; fruit raw, jelly, jam, wine
Where: landscaping
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: vitamin C
Dangers: none

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are arranged oppositely along the branches.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are ovate to elliptical, typically measuring 1 to 3 inches in length.

Leaf Venation: Venation is pinnate, with a distinct midrib and smaller lateral veins.

Leaf Margin: Margins are entire, smooth, and sometimes slightly wavy.

Leaf Color: A glossy green, often with a leathery texture.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and have a diameter of approximately 1 inch. They are typically arranged in clusters at the terminal ends of branches. Flowers have five club-shaped petals spaced widely apart.

Flower Color: The flowers are typically pink or rose-colored with a diameter of about .

Fruit: Produces a bright red, berry-like fruit, similar in appearance to a cherry.

Seed: Each fruit contains several small seeds.

Stem: Stems are woody, with a branching habit forming a dense shrub.

Hairs: There are no significant hairs on the leaves or stems.

Height: The plant usually forms a shrub up to 3 to 6 feet tall, sometimes taller under ideal conditions.

Barbados cherry bush.

Barbados cherry fruit.

Barbados Cherry


Close-ups of the Barbados cherry flowers.


Barbados cherry leaf.

Barbados Cherry

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Barbados cherries originally come from the Caribbean. When it was discovered a single berry contains the daily recommended dose of vitamin C it was quickly adopted by navies to help against scurvy and so planted in many places. The plant doesn't handle cold well, though it does fine in normal Southern winters if only a few hard frosts occur. They are evergreen, which increases their appeal in landscapes.

The flowers can be eaten raw or used to make tea. However, it is best to leave the flowers alone so as to maximize fruit production.
The fruit starts appearing in May and will continue to appear waves through the winter if the weather is mild. These berries range in flavor from somewhat sweet to very acidic, with the higher acid content also having the higher vitamin C. Eat the berries raw if they aren't too sour/acidic, otherwise use them in jelly, jam, juice or wine.

Many plant nurseries have Barbados cherries for sale. Plant in sunny, well-drained soil but do keep them watered. A layer of mulch will help prevent the roots from drying out. Single plants will produce berries but the fruit production will be much higher if two or more Barbados cherries of different varieties are planted within 4-16 feet of each other for cross-pollination.

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