Jamaican Cherry AKA Panama Cherry
Origin and Distribution
The Jamaica cherry is indigenous to southern Mexico, Central America, tropical South America, the Greater Antilles, St. Vincent and Trinidad. The type specimen was collected in Jamaica. It is widely cultivated in warm areas of the New World and in India, southeast Asia, Malaya, Indonesia, and the Philippines, in many places so thoroughly naturalized that it is thought by the local people to be native.
Macmillan says that it was first planted in Ceylon about 1912. Several trees were introduced into Hawaii by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1922. Dr. David Fairchild collected seeds of a yellow-fruited form in the Peradeniya. Botanic Gardens, Ceylon, in 1926 (S.P.I. #67936). The tree has been grown in southern Florida for its fruits and as quick shade for nursery plants. It is seldom planted at present. Volunteers from bird-distributed seeds spring up in disturbed hammocks and pinelands. The author supplied seeds requested by the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute, Kihuyu, in 1982. The Jamaica cherry is said to grow better than any other tree in the polluted air of Metropolitan Manila. It runs wild on denuded mountainsides and on cliffs and is being evaluated for reforestation in the Philippines where other trees have failed to grow and also for wildlife sanctuaries since birds and bats are partial to the fruits.
The Jamaican Cherry has red, sometimes yellow skin, is yellow inside and has two to three small oval seeds. It is slightly sweet, slightly tart and juicy, and is used to make juices, or washed and eaten just picked from the tree. The cherries are low in carbohydrates and are packed with vitamin C, vitamin A and folate.