It is a tropical tree which makes a fine addition to a South Florida gardener`s backyard fruit ``orchard.`` A native of the West Indies, it is a small, attractive, fast-growing tree that won`t reach much more than 12 feet, although it can be kept clipped back to shrub size. It`s leaves are small and evergreen, borne densely on rather brittle branches. The branches of some varieties droop; others are quite upright.
The bright pink, five-petaled flowers are small but pretty, with the trees blooming mainly from April through October although some blossoms appear year around. Fruiting is from May to November, but again, a few cherries may be picked now and then throughout the winter.
The fruit is about the size and shape of a true cherry, with a thin scarlet skin, golden flesh and three small seeds. It has an excellent flavor but its main claim to fame is its extremely high quantity of ascorbic acid, vitamin C. The tarter the fruit, the more vitamin C, it is said. But even though a single fruit of a mouth-puckering variety may supply all the vitamin C you need for an entire day, you`ll probably prefer a sweeter variety, such as ``Florida Sweet.``
Most of the Barbados cherry trees sold in this area are propagated from cuttings from mature trees which produce good fruit. They may be planted here at almost any time of the year, preferably in full sun and well-drained soil. They may be fertilized in spring and fall with a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) and given extra water during dry months.
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