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Plants you aren’t growing, but should be: Ugni molinae (Myrtus ugni)

June 17, 2013

… And if you are already growing it, I would be  interested in any thoughts/info/feedback you may have regarding the plant via the comment forum…

Ugni molinae (Myrtus ugni, Eugenia ugni) is a memeber of the Myrtaceae family, and is related to such important fruit genera/species as Guavas (Psidium spp.), Syzygium spp, Myrtle (Myrtus spp.), Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora), and Eugenia spp., to name only a few of many.

Although you may have heard it referred to as Tazziberry (Australia) and New Zealand Cranberry (New Zealand) Ugni molinae actually originates in Southern Chile and adjacent parts of Argentina where it is variously called Murtilla, Murtillo, Murta, or Uñi. The name Ugni is derived from the Native American (Mapuche) name Uñi. The plant is not very widely known outside its area of origin although in Chile and S. Argentina it is considered to be one of the most highly esteemed wild edible fruit.

The medium sized shrub will grow up to 2 meters in height and bears a small round fruit, 1.5-2 cm in diameter. The fruit flavor is described as excellent, reminiscent to wild strawberries. Leaves are used to make tea and the dried roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute. Once established the shrub is drought tolerant, preferring well drained soil and a temperate climate, positioned in part to full sun.

Ugni can be propagated easily from seeds and cuttings. As soon as I next see flowers and fruit on my plants I will upload photos. For now, there are plenty of photos of Ugni molinae on GoogleImages…

Ugni molinae, Myrtaceae

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2013 10:08:58 am

    I am growing one and we call it a Chilean guava🙂

    • June 18, 2013 10:08:59 am

      Ah, interesting. I thought you might have one. How old is it? Do you get fruit yet?

  2. Ashley permalink
    June 22, 2013 10:08:34 pm

    I really really want to start growing this at my house in Oregon. The climate here is very similar to the climate where I have seen them grown in Chile. How can I get a hold of seeds or starter plants?

    • June 23, 2013 10:08:04 am

      Do you know of any plants in the area? Perhaps at a local Botanic Garden? They grow fairly easily from cuttings, also from seed. I would start by asking your local nursery, ask if they can order it from one of their suppliers.

  3. July 19, 2013 10:08:43 pm

    I have 2. One is the standard like the one show above and I also have the varigated form named “Flambeau”. I ordered both from Bay Flora online. I was surprised how nice and full the plants were when they arrived. I was gone when standard Ugni arrived and it survived the night sitting on my front porch in a 4″ pot down to 15 deg so they are quite hardy. When I opened it the root ball was frozen solid. I thought it would be a gonner. It had no damage whatsoever. The Flambeau is supposed to be even a bit hardier. These are less than 1 year old but they have quickly become the favorite of my edible landscape. I bought seeds to start of their relative Ugni Myricoides which is a black fruited cousin to the Ugni Molinae. I am in zone 8 about 1 hour north of Seattle and these 2 seem very happy so far. I hope to try some of the fruit here in the next year or so. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

    • July 19, 2013 10:08:11 pm

      Thank you for visiting the site and for the detailed comment. It is always very interesting and helpful to hear about readers’ experience with plants. I am not familiar with Flambeau, at least not by that name. Is that an Ugni relative? Do you grow Luma apiculata up in Washington? It’s a Myrtaceae species, but somewhat reminiscent to the Ugni.

      • July 19, 2013 10:08:32 pm

        Flambeau is just a cultivar of Ugni Molinae from what I understand. Bay Flora sells it as Ugni Molinae “Flambeau”. It is a very pretty plant. We are converting our yard into an edible landscape. My wife was skeptical about Chilean Guavas but now she loves them. I don’t think I have room for a Luma apiculata. Sounds like it gets pretty big. (Wikkipedia says 33’+) We live on 1/10th of an acre and have 58 perennial fruiting plants (yes I keep them in a spreadsheet) not to count our annual veggies and whatnot so room is becoming a premium. My wife is from Colombia so getting South American temperate fruits along with the standard North American ones has been our hobby these last few years. I’m always looking for small to medium sized fruiting plants we can fit in spots here and there.

        • July 19, 2013 10:08:48 pm

          If you’re wife’s from Colombia you may already grow Solanum betaceum, the S. American tree tomato. I remember seeing them everywhere in the higher, cooler areas of Colombia. Rocoto is another interesting S. American plant I posted photos of recently, a perennial tree Capsicum that produces a very hot pepper with black seeds. Do you grow Goumi (*Eleagnus* multiflora)?

      • July 19, 2013 10:08:41 pm

        I just looked more into the Luma apiculata and sound like it stays small in Seattle. Thanks for the lead! Now where to find one!

        • July 19, 2013 10:08:54 pm

          Luma can take pruning very well and managed at whatever height you want. On the other hand they can also live up to 600+ years in the wild and are relatively easy to propagate from cuttings. The leaves give off a great spicy myrtle-like fragrance.

      • July 21, 2013 10:08:17 am

        I really would like to grow Solanum betaceum but from what I’ve read it is only cold hardy to about 28 deg. I don’t know if that is accurate. We get down into the upper teens every few years and often the low 20’s for a few days in a row. Sounds like you have 1st hand experience and if you think otherwise I would love to know. I have looked into Elaeagnus ebbingei but not multiflora. Do you have experience with either? I am trying Feijoas here and was so excited that they are flowering really good this year. Even if they don’t fruit the flowers taste great. My wife really likes maracuja (passion fruit) so we planted a cold hardy variety that is supposed to be pretty good. Not the same she grew up with but sometimes you have to compromise. We went with Passiflora Incarnata. Not growing great yet but there are a few in Seattle that grow well and fruit and the crown is very cold tolerant. We have considered putting in a loquat. She had one outside her window growing up and loved the fruit but sounds like even though it is cold hardy it needs more heat than we get to ripen the fruit. Being that you have had hands on experiance I would love to hear what plants you would recommend that might be able to grow in my climate. We have tried to get things that would at least satisfy some of the tropical flavors she loved in Colombia (Today was Colombian independence day!) so we have Kiwis (fuzzy and hardy), Feijoas, Ugni, and passion flowers, and paw paws. All of these plants are less than 3 years old. We also have a Meyer Lemon that made it through the winter last year but not undamaged. We have blueberries, nectarines, lingonberries, cranberries, huckleberries, grapes, strawberries, gooseberries, currants, raspberries, blackberries, figs, apples, jostaberries, and goji berries. We are having a lot of fun with it and I love finding things that are rare around here but are useful. By the way Raintree Nursery has the Luma and as soon as I can find room for it that will be my next splurge. Thanks for all the wonderful information and suggestions.

        • July 21, 2013 10:08:21 pm

          Sounds like a fantastic collection you have going…

          Upper teens could be a bit too cold for the tree tomato, although you could try it in a container and bring it inside during winter if you have a bright window to put it next to.

          I would think if you have enough sun for fig and kiwi (and some of the other stuff you mentioned) you’ll be fine with Loquat. You can find superior grafted varieties with big fruit and few seeds. They will also be easier to manage as small compact trees. They can be a truly excellent fruit but have quite a range of size and quality.

          I grow Elaeagnus ebbingei(link to some info on my site). Aside from having an edible berry and edible seed it fixes nitrogen and can grow in a wide spectrum between full sun and shade. It is also very drought tolerant, can be pruned and managed as a compact shrub. Tolerates a wide variety of soils. Can make a dense windscreen or privacy hedge. very tough.

          Here are a few additional thoughts off the top of my head… hopefully there are a few that you haven’t yet considered. During winter, heavy mulching beneath your trees and shrubs will help them cope through the cold.

          Kousa dogwood – Cornus kousa *Cornellian Cherry – Cornus mas * Hardy kiwi – *Actinidia kolomikta (is this the species you have?) * *Hardy persimmon – *Diospyros virginiana *Pomegranate – not all varieties are hardy but hardy varieties do exist * *Japanese Raisin tree – Hovenia dulcis (rare, could be hard to find but interesting to try out * *Mulberry – Morus spp. * *Akebia quinata – Chocolate vine (very cool looking flowers, produces edible fruit) * *Passiflora mollisima – Curuba… (your wife will almost surely know this Passiflora species from Colombia, cold hardy down to -5 C. The elongated fruit has a very tropical look, smell etc. * * * *Some interesting hardy edible root crop / tuber species from S. America that you could grow are: * *Oca – Oxalis tuberosa * *Mashua – Tropaeolum tuberosum * *Yacon – *Smallanthus sonchifolius

          Happy Colombian independence! **

        • July 21, 2013 10:08:26 pm

          You could also try Ziziphus (Jujube)…

          • July 25, 2013 10:08:00 pm

            I noticed on my Ugni last night that there are quite a few leaves browning and falling off. There is a lot of new growth on points of the same stem. We have been in the low 80s with no rain for about 50 days but I water deeply about 2x per week. It’s this leaf drop typical of the ugnis you have encountered? It seems to be mostly interior parts of branches. Ends of the same branch have new growth.

            • July 25, 2013 10:08:47 pm

              How old is the plant? The interior branches on the plants I grow are notably less densely vegetated then the outer branches, although the leaves discolor and drop gradually rather then all at once. But I would think that as long as your plant continues to grow and look healthy its fine..

  4. Anonymous permalink
    October 8, 2013 10:08:02 pm

    I love the smell coming off the bush when the berries are ripe. Absolutely amazing! Great flavor as well. Nice (if kept pruned) evergreen shrub with bronzy new growth. I love this shrub. Supposedly high fruiting even in partial shade.

  5. Bill permalink
    November 10, 2013 10:08:39 am

    For anyone looking for black chiliean guava seeds I got mine from tradewind fruit in California I got about 8 to sprout under flourecent light the others are still outside maybe come up next spring? I also got goji berry and strawberry guava to sprout from my first order there, cauplin cherry did not pop up but spent ten bucks and got free shipping verry happy with the seeds from first purchase

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