One of the most reliable plants in southern and central Florida for creating a dense and uniform hedge is Eugenia uniflora, better known as Surinam Cherry. Few other plants stay full from bottom to top as they increase in size and age. This species comes with an interesting story that says something about the nature of plant exploration several centuries ago: Although native from northern South America to southern Brazil, Surinam Cherry was first described botanically from a specimen found in a garden in Pisa, Italy. That plant was thought to have been introduced to Italy from Goa, the tiny, but historically important, state on the western coast of India. It is thought that Portuguese travelers carried seed of E. uniflora from Brazil to Goa, just as they did cashew over 450 years ago. Since that time, Surinam Cherry has been widely distributed in the tropics worldwide and even into the subtropics.
Surinam Cherry in Florida flowers in early spring and develops attractive ribbed fruits about an inch in diameter that ripen from bright red to deep scarlet to purple-maroon. As a hedge, it is pruned so often that most of its fruit production is lost through the removal of flowers, but as a stand-alone small tree, it is an excellent source of food for wildlife as well as for humans. However, since the fruit of the popular cultivar here tends to be quite tart to the human sense of taste, it is probably more desirable to use it in jams, jellies, pies or wines. Richard Lyons’ Nursery carries Surinam Cherry in 3-gal. and 7-gal. containers.