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Eugenia uniflora, with common names Pitanga, Surinam cherry, Brazilian cherry, or Cayenne cherry is a plant in the family Myrtaceae, native to tropical South America’s east coast, ranging from Suriname to southern Brazil, as well as parts of Paraguay and Uruguay. Known as pitanga throughout Brazil and Uruguay, or ñangapirí in surrounding countries, the plant is relatively pest resistant, easy to grow and high in antioxidants. The Surinam cherry is often used in gardens as a hedge or screen. The tree was introduced to Bermuda for ornamental purposes but is now out of control and listed as an invasive species.
Eugenia uniflora is a large shrub or small tree with a conical form, growing slowly to 8 meters in height. When bruised, crushed or cut, the leaves and branches have a spicy resinous fragrance, which can cause respiratory discomfort in susceptible individuals. New leaves are bronze, copper or coppery-pinkish in color, maturing to a deep glossy green, up to 4 cm long. During winter the leaves turn red.
Flowers have four white petals and are borne on slender long stalks, with a conspicuous central cluster of white stamens ending in yellow anthers. Flowers develop into ribbed fruits 2 to 4 cm in diameter, starting out as green, then ranging through orange, scarlet and maroon as they ripen.
The taste ranges from sweet to sour, depending on the cultivar and level of ripeness (the darker red to black range is quite sweet, while the green to orange range is strikingly tart). Its predominant food use is as a flavoring and base for jams and jellies. The fruit is high in vitamin C and a source of vitamin A.
The leaves are spread on house floors in Brazil, so that when crushed underfoot, they exude a smell which repels flies.
The leaves are also used for tea in certain parts of Uruguay.
Eugenia uniflora has several significant pharmacological properties. Its essential oil is antihypertensive, antidiabetic, antitumor and analgesic, and it has shown antiviral and antifungal activity. It has performed against microorganisms such as Trichomonas gallinae (in vitro), Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania amazonensis.
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