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Muntingia calabura - L.

Common Name Calabura, Panama berry, Capulin
Family Muntingiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Well-drained limestone banks and in thickets at elevations from sea level to 600 metres in Jamaica[426 ]. A typical pioneer species, colonizing disturbed sites in tropical lowlands[303 ].
Range Western S. America, north to Mexico and the Caribbean.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Muntingia calabura Calabura, Panama berry, Capulin

Muntingia calabura Calabura, Panama berry, Capulin


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Calabura or Muntingia calabura is a fast-growing small shrub or tree that is the only species in Muntingia genus and native to Southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and western South America. It has a spreading crown, short bole of about 20 cm in diameter, and drooping branches. The flowers are small and white, and the fruits are edible, sweet, and juicy. The fruits can be processed into jams.Tea can be made from the leaves. The bark yields a tough fiber used to make ropes and baskets. The wood is a source of paper pulp. It is also used as fuel for cooking. Established plants are drought-resistant but not tolerant to strong winds. Propagation method is through air layering, seed sowing, and cuttings.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Muntingia calabura is an evergreen Tree growing to 9 m (29ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Muntingia rosea H.Karst.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves
Edible Uses: Tea

Fruit - raw or cooked[301 ]. A sweet juicy flesh, they are very good to eat out of hand and can also be used in jams, tarts, pies etc[301 , 418 ]. The fruit is intensely, almost nauseatingly, sweet[331 ]. The fruit is much loved by children[303 ]. The fruit is about 12mm in diameter and has a high vitamin C content[301 ]. A tea is made from the leaves[301 , 307 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antiseptic  Antispasmodic  Vitamin C

The flowers are said to possess antiseptic properties[306 ]. An infusion of the flowers is valued as an antispasmodic[306 , 739 ]. It is taken to relieve headache and the first symptoms of a cold[303 , 306 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Containers  Fibre  Fuel  Paper  Pioneer  String  Tinder  Wood  Wood

Small shade tree. Backyard tree. Large Planter, Specimen. Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: The tree has an incredible property for very quick establishment. It is a typical pioneer species and is found colonizing disturbed sites in tropical lowlands[306 ]. Other Uses The pliable bark can be used as rough cordage[303 ]. A tough, silk-like fibre can be obtained from the bark and is used for lashing supports and making rope[307 ]. It is also used for basket making[307 ]. The wood is valued in Brazil as a source of paper pulp[306 ]. The sapwood is yellowish and the heartwood is reddish brown, firm, compact, fine grained, moderately strong, light in weight, durable indoors and easily worked. It is useful for interior sheathing, making small boxes, casks and general carpentry[306 ]. The wood is soft and is valued mostly as fuel as it ignites quickly, burns with intense heat and gives off very little smoke. It is also used as wood for cooking[303 , 306 , 418 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 - 32°c, but can tolerate 10 - 36°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,400 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 1,000 - 2,400mm[418 ]. Probably tolerant of most soil types[K ]. The tree has the reputation of thriving with no care in poor soils and it does well in both acid and alkaline soils and even on old tin tailings[306 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 7[303 , 418 ]. Established plants are drought resistant[306 ]. The plant requires a sheltered position, the wide-spread branches tend to break in high winds[418 ]. The tree is often cultivated as an ornamental and shade tree. With its ability to colonise disturbed ground, even on well-trodden land that other trees cannot become established, this tree has spread to many areas of the tropics[303 , 942 ]. It has proved to be invasive in many regions[307 ]. Seedlings flower within two years due to their fast growth[306 , 418 ]. Air-layered plants fruit straight away[306 ]. The plant can establish itself in trodden yards and along shop fronts where no other tree takes root, and it can also withstand the air pollution in city streets[418 ]. Flowering Time: Blooms all year. Bloom Color: White/Near White.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - The seed requires light to germinate[303 ]. Fresh seed germination is enhanced by passage through the digestive tract of bats and birds. The seed is well represented in the seed banks of forest soils and requires high temperature and light conditions for germination[306 ]. The seedlings do not tolerate shade[306 ]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood Air layering. Planters use fresh seeds mixed with the sweet juice of the fruit to sow directly into the field. To prepare seeds for planting, water is added repeatedly to the squeezed-out seeds and juice, and as the seeds sink to the bottom of the container, the water is poured off several times until the seeds are clean enough. They are then dried in the shade.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Calabura, Capulin, Jamaican Cherry, Acuruco, Bois de soie, Bois d'orme, Bois ramier, Bolina, Buah cheri, Calabur, Capulin, Capulina, Capulin blanco, Capulin de comer, Cay trung ca, Cedrillo, Cedrillo majagua, Cereja-do-parana, Cereza, Ceri, Cerri, Chapuli, Chirriador, Chitato, Datiles, Guacimo hembra, Guasem, Guinda yunanasa, Iumanasa, Japanese strawberry tree, Kakhop, Kersen, Kerukup siam, Khoom somz, Krakob barang, Kresen, Latires, Mahaujo, Mai khom, Majagua, Majaguillo, Majaguito, Mat sam, Memiso, Memizo, Mullacahuayo, Nigua, Niguito, Niguo, Pasito, Pau de seda, Ratiles, Sachacapuli, Seresa, Takhon, Takhop farang, Takop farang, Tapabotija, Talok, Trung ca, Uvilla, Yumanasa, jamaica cherry|jam gaha, puán.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Amazon, Argentina, Asia, Australia, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Central America, Colombia*, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guiana, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico*, Nauru, Nicaragua, North America, Pacific, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, SE Asia, Solomon Islands, South America, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tahiti, Thailand, Timor-Leste, USA, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Indies,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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