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Malpighia emarginata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Malpighiaceae
Genus: Malpighia
Species: M. emarginata
Binomial name
Malpighia emarginata

Malpighia biflora Poir.
Malpighia glabra L.[1]
Malpighia punicifolia L.[2]
Malpighia retusa Benth.[3]

Malpighia emarginata is a tropical fruit-bearing shrub or small tree in the family Malpighiaceae. Common names include Acerola, Barbados Cherry, West Indian Cherry[4] and Wild Crapemyrtle.[5]



M. emarginata can be found in the southernmost parts of the contiguous United States (southern Florida[3] and the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas),[6] Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America as far south as Peru and Bahia in Brazil.[2][3] It is cultivated in the tropics and subtropics throughout the world, including the Canary Islands, Ghana, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, India, Java, Hawaii, and Australia.[7]


Acerola is an evergreen shrub or small tree with spreading branches on a short trunk. It is usually 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft) tall, but sometimes reaches 6 m (20 ft) in height.[8]


The leaves are simple ovate-lanceolate, 2–8 cm (0.79–3.1 in) long, 1–4 cm (0.39–1.6 in), and are attached to short petioles. They are opposite, ovate to elliptic-lanceolate, and have entire or undulating margins. Top sides are dark green and glossy.[8]


Flowers are bisexual and 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) in diameter. They have five[8] pale to deep pink or red[9] fringed petals, ten stamens, and six to ten glands on the calyx. There are three to five flowers per inflorescence, which are sessile or short-peduncled axillary cymes.[8]


The fruit is a bright red drupe 1–3 cm (0.39–1.2 in) in diameter with a mass of 3–5 g (0.11–0.18 oz). Drupes are in pairs or groups of three, and each contains three triangular seeds. The drupes are juicy and very high in vitamin C and other nutrients. They are divided into three obscure lobes and are usually acid to subacid, giving them a sour taste,[8] but may be sweet if grown well.[10]


As food

Close-up on the blossom and unripe fruits

The fruit is edible and widely consumed in the species' native area, and is cultivated elsewhere for its high vitamin C content. There is 1677.6 mg of vitamin C in 100 g of fruit.[4]

In the 1950s, a manufacturer of baby food decided that apple juice was milder for infants than orange juice. The company claimed that a drop of acerola juice in an 8 oz. can of apple juice provided the amount of vitamin C of an equal amount of orange juice. A detailed nutrition facts analysis shows Acerola juice does contain 32 times the amount of vitamin C in orange juice (over 3000% as much), supporting the claim.[11]

A comparative analysis of antioxidant potency among a variety of frozen juice pulps was carried out, and included the acerola fruit. Among the eleven fruits' pulps tested, acerola was the highest scoring domestic fruit, meaning it had the most antioxidant potency, with a TEAC (Trolox equivalent antioxidant activity) score of 53.2 mmol g.[12]

Cultivars have been developed to improve growth of the plant, disease resistance, and the size and flavor of the fruits. Sweet cultivars include 'Manoa Sweet', 'Tropical Ruby', and 'Hawaiian Queen', while 'J.H. Beaumont', 'C.F. Rehnborn', 'F. Haley', 'Red Jumbo', and 'Maunawili' are sour cultivars. The cultivars 'A-1', 'B-15', and 'B-17' are recommended for Puerto Rico, while 'B-17' and 'Florida Sweet' are recommended for Florida.[13]

Absolut Vodka released Absolut Los Angeles, a limited-edition spirit flavored with acerola, Açai, pomegranate, and blueberry, in July 2008.[14]

Acerola flavour is also used in Tic Tac dragées.

In Vietnam, the most famous variety is from Gò Công district, Tiền Giang province.

Other uses

For many years, Acerola has been a popular bonsai subject because of its small leaf, fruit and fine ramification. The best[citation needed] acerola bonsai have been cultivated in Taiwan, where it has become a very common plant in bonsai circles, particularly in Yunlin County, Chung Hwa, Tainan and Kaohsiung. It has also been cultivated as a bonsai, with great success, in Indonesia.[citation needed] It is also grown as an ornamental[15] and for hedges.[7]


  1. ^ Janick, Jules; Robert E. Paull (2008). The Encyclopedia of Fruit & Nuts. CABI. p. 462. ISBN 9780851996387. 
  2. ^ a b "Malpighia glabra L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  3. ^ a b c "Malpighia emarginata DC.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1998-05-18. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Paul D. (2003). "Acerola (Malpighia glabra L., M. punicifolia M. emarginata DC.) Agriculture, Production, and Nutrition". in Artemis P. Simopoulos; C. Gopalan. Plants in Human Health and Nutrition Policy. 91. Karger Publishers. pp. 63–74. ISBN 9783805575546. 
  5. ^ "Malpighia glabra L. wild crapemyrtle". PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  6. ^ "Barbados Cherry, Mexican Myrtle, Manzanita, Cerez, Huacacote, Wild Crepe Myrtle, Manyonita, Cerezo de Jamaica, Cerezo de Castillo, Pallo de Gallina, Escobillo, Chia, Arrayncito, Xocat, Xocatatl Malpighia glabra". Benny Simpson's Texas Native Shrubs. Texas A&M University. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  7. ^ a b Hanelt, Peter (2001). Mansfeld's Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops (Except Ornamentals). Springer. pp. 1127–1128. ISBN 9783540410171. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Malpighia glabra L. Malpighiaceae" (PDF). Agroforestree Database 4.0. World Agroforestry Centre. 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  9. ^ National Geographic (2008). Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Food Plants. National Geographic Books. p. 106. ISBN 9781426203725. 
  10. ^ Nugent, Jeff; Julia Boniface (2004). Permaculture Plants: a Selection (2 ed.). Chelsea Green Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 9781856230292. 
  11. ^ "Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool". Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  12. ^ Kuskoski EM, Asuero AG, Morales MT, Fett R (2006). "Wild fruits and pulps of frozen fruits: antioxidant activity, polyphenols and anthocyanins". Cienc Rural 36 (4 (July/Aug)). 
  13. ^ Duke, James A.; Judith L. DuCellier (1993). CRC Handbook of Alternative Cash Crops. CRC Press. p. 300. ISBN 9780849336201. 
  14. ^ "Absolut unveils Los Angeles ‘flavour’". 2008-07-24. 
  15. ^ Gillman, Edward F. (October 1999). "Malpighia glabra". Cooperative Extension Services Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. University of Florida. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 

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