PRUNUS SALICIFOLIA - Capulin Cherry, Capulin, Capuli, Tropic Cherry
This small subtropical tree from South and Central America is a wild cherry of the tropics. The flowers are white and fruit is maroon-purple covering a pale-green, juicy flesh. It is eaten fresh or in preserves. Propagated by seed or grafting.

Related Species: Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium), Western Sand Cherry (P. besseyi), Myrobalan Plum (P. cerasifera), Sour Cherry (P. cerasus), European Plum (P. domestica), Beach plum (P. maritima), Japanese Plum (P. salicina), Nanking Cherry (P. tomentosa), Common Chokecherry (P. virginiana) and others.

Distant Affinity: Almond (Amygdalus communis), Peach (A. persica), Apricot (Armeniaca vulgaris), Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), Apple (Malus spp.), Pear (Pyrus spp.) and others.

Origin: The capulin cherry is native and common throughout the Valley of Mexico from Sonora to Chiapas and Veracruz and possibly western Guatemala. It has been cultivated since early times and is extensively naturalized in Central America and over much of western South America. Today it is cultivated in the Andes more than in its northern homeland and at harvest the fruits are abundantly available in Andean markets. The tree was introduced into California sometime after the mid-1920s.

Adaptation: Capulins are adapted to a subtropical to subtemperate climate. In its native and naturalized areas it is grows naturally at elevations between 4,000 and 9,000 ft. It is frost tolerant, withstanding 19 degrees F with some damage to the smaller branches. In California the tree grows and fruits in many regions of the state. Capulin cherries are photo period insensitive and do not require winter chill to bear fruit. The trees are not recommended for containers.


Growth Habits: The semideciduous tree is erect and somewhat umbrella-shaped with a short, stout trunk and rough, grayish bark. It is very fast growing and reaches a height of 10 feet in 12 to 18 months, eventually attaining a height of 30 feet or more. In mild climates the tree does not shed its leaves in winter. Capulin cherries are quite attractive, both when in bloom with dangling racemes covered with masses of flowers and after fruit set when the racemes are thick with green, light red or deep red ripening fruit.

Foliage: The alternate, aromatic leaves are about 4-1/2 inches long, slender, with serrated edges. They are deep glossy green above and pale grayish-green beneath. New leaves are often rosy.

Flowers: The flowers appear in early spring and are borne on slender racemes with one or more leaves at the base. Individual flowers are about 3/4 inch wide with white petals and a conspicuous tuft of stamens. Cross-pollination is not required.

Fruit: As many as 15 or 20 fruits sometimes develop on a raceme, but half or more fall before reaching maturity. Depending on climate and variety, they ripen from mid-May to midsummer. Resembling the northern cherry, the fruits are 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter and deep glossy maroon to dark purple in color, with a thin, tender skin. The pale green, firm, juicy flesh is sweet and agreeable with a touch of astringency similar to wild cherries in some cases. The pit is rather large in proportion to the size of the fruit. The trees will produce fruit 2 to 3 years after planting, and under the right conditions will set more than one crop per season. For reasons unknown trees with gray bark seem to produce larger fruit than those with darker bark.
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