Malpighia glabra

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Fruits and foliage

Local names:
English (West Indian cherry), French (cerise-antillaise), Thai (choeri), Vietnamese (so'ri)

Malpighia glabra  is a shrub or small evergreen tree, 2-3(-6) m tall, with spreading, more or less drooping branches on a short trunk.

Leaves opposite, ovate to elliptic-lanceolate, 2-8 cm x 1-4 cm, entire or undulating, dark green and glossy above, petiole short.

Inflorescences sessile or short-peduncled axillary cymes with 3-5 flowers; flowers bisexual, 1-2 cm in diameter, pinkish to reddish; calyx with 6-10 large sessile glands; petals 5, fringed, slender-clawed; stamens 10, filaments united below.

Fruit a bright-red, juicy drupe, depressed-ovoid, 1-3 cm in diameter and weighing 3-5 g, usually in pairs or threes, obscurely 3-lobed; skin thin, flesh soft, orange, acid to subacid.

Seeds 3, triangular, ridged.

In Florida, 'Florida Sweet' is a high-yielding cultivar.

A distinction is sometimes made in nomenclature between wild and cultivated (improved) plants, the latter being called M. punicifolia L.  It is now, however, generally accepted that both taxa belong to M. glabra.  M. coccigera L. and M. urens L. are incidentally cultivated in South-East Asia for the same purposes as M. glabra.


Acerola can be grown almost anywhere in the tropics and warm subtropics.  Young plants are killed by frost, but mature trees survive brief exposure to -2 deg. C.  The plants tolerate long periods of drought and do not stand waterlogging.

Native range
Puerto Rico, United States of America

Tree management

The recommended spacing is 3-4 m on the square, or in double rows, e.g. (4 + 2) m x 3 m.  NPK fertilization twice a year and application of organic material are recommended for Puerto Rico. Bearing will be enhanced if mature plants are judiciously pruned after the main crop, followed by a top dressing. Trees start to produce well 3-4 years after planting and continue for 15 years. Individual trees may produces 15-30 kg of fruits per year, whereas yields per hectare per year may vary considerably: (10-)15-25(-65) t.


Acerola can be grown almost anywhere in the tropics and warm subtropics.  Young plants are killed by frost, but mature trees survive brief exposure to -2 deg. C.  The plants tolerate long periods of drought and do not stand waterlogging.

Fully developed seeds should be used for planting.  The germination of the seed is slow (5-50%).  Acerola may also be propagated vegetatively by cuttings, budding or grafting.

 The sour fruits are eaten fresh, but more often preserved with sugar, e.g. in the form of jam.  The edible pulp represents about half of the fruit weight and contains per 100 g: water 82-91 g, protein 0.7-1.8 g, fat 0.1-0.2 g, carbohydrates 7-14 g, fibre 0.6-1.2 g, ash 0.8 g.  The energy value is 247 kJ per 100 g.  The fruit -particularly when immature- is one of the richest sources of vitamin C, containing up to 4.7 g per 100 g edible portion. Juice is used commercially to enrich other fruit juices low in vitamin C. Canned juice and frozen fruit are exported to the United States, where they are used to enrich fruit preserves and are marketed as baby foods.

Timber: The wood, which is hard and heavy, can be used for small utensils.

Tannin or dyestuff: The bark has been used for tannin.

Medicine: The fruits are considered beneficial against liver problems, diarrhoea, dysentery, coughs and colds.

Ornamental:  The plants have ornamental value.

The plants are suitable for hedges.

Other services: The plants are very suitable for backyards and places where children play (to eat the fruits and to climb the trees).