Friday, May 22, 2015


Myrciaria cauliflora fruits, or Jaboticaba.
 Myrciaria cauliflora (alternatively Plinia cauliflora; family Myrtaceae) is a small tropical tree with edible fruits, native to Brazil. Its species name is derived from the term "cauliflory," which describes trees which produce their flowers and fruits along their trunk and large branches, as opposed to at the ends of younger shoots. Cauliflory is mostly seen in tropical trees, although what function it might serve seems to be debatable. Possibly, flowers along trunks are more visible to pollinators (or fruits more accessible to animal dispersers) than they would be in the dense leafy canopy of the rainforest. There are no native cauliflorous trees in my area, but a little further south one shrub, the Redbud (Cercis canadensis), shows this condition to some extent.

Myrciaria in the UConn greenhouses, in about a 20 inch pot.
 Jaboticaba (sometimes spelled Jabuticaba) fruits are pretty tasty, with sweet, grape-flavored white pulp inside of rubbery, nearly black skins. The skins are a little bit tough, but also edible, with a slightly acrid flavor reminiscent of walnuts. In the greenhouse the flowers of Myrciaria self-pollinate, and set abundant fruit in spring without any special attention. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring at Last!

The last of the snow is finally gone, after a consistently cold and fairly stormy period from January into April. The ice sheet remnant in the photo was caught, about to disappear, on May 11. The snow was pretty much gone everywhere else a month ago, to be sure; this spot is on the north side of a parking garage on the UConn campus where a huge pile of snow gets dumped from cleared lots. Ice always lingers there for longer than it does elsewhere, but it's pretty unusual for it to last into May.

The cherry blossoms were out the other week, and this week the apples are in full bloom. The weather has actually been very warm recently (20 F above average temperatures on a few days), so the growing season is catching up rapidly. I'd say that the plants are only a week or so behind schedule at this point, versus a month late back in the maple sugaring season.

The bees are really taking off at this point, although they were delayed for so long that I don't think colony sizes will be large enough to really take advantage of the earlier phases of the spring nectar flow. The weather has also been unusually dry lately, which won't help nectar production, and could lead to a pretty poor year for honey in Connecticut.

The other day in Glastonbury, Ct, I ran across some nice patches of Polygala paucifolia (Fringed Polygala), on somewhat open slopes in pine/oak woods. This plant seems to be fairly rare in this area and I don't know of many localities where it occurs. The color of the flowers is unlike anything else that blooms on the forest floor, and the plants stand out from quite a distance.