Cattley Guava: A Minor Fruit For Making Jelly And A Tree For Ornamental Garden (1)

Cattley Guava (Photo Courtesy: Freepik)
Cattley Guava (Photo Courtesy: Freepik)

A wild species of guava which gives edible fruits, make excellent jelly and is highly befitting for planting in landscape garden is Cattley-guava (Psidium cattleianum Sab.). The splendid charm of this tree for its lustrous foliage, cinnamon-brown peeling bark, sweet-smelling white flowers, scarlet-red small fruits, and graceful appearance of the tree are the attractive features that make it very special in ornamental gardens in the tropics and subtropics. The fruits of this wild guava fruit are although not so palatable as that of the common guava of commerce but contain pectin of high jelly grade and hence, excellent jelly can be prepared from them, and this jelly is much better in quality than that made from the common guava fruits.

It may be brought to notice in this connection that as a considerable proportion of guava fruits produced in India are utilized in making jelly, people are deprived to relish this important fruit for use as a dessert. To avoid that, cattley-guava fruits may well be utilized as a suitable substitute so that the pressure exerted on common guava fruits in making jelly could be lessened. Other merits of this minor fruit tree are, it is very hardy in nature and grows in adverse types of soil of low agricultural potential, adaptability to change of environment, quickly multiplication from seeds, high productivity even without receiving cultural care and high economic value of the wood.

Cattley-guava is named to honour the British horticulturist of the 19th century, Sir William Cattley, and goes by several names in different countries, such as Chinese guava, Purple guava, Pineapple guava, Strawberry guava, etc. The tree is a native of Brazil to northern Uruguay. From that part, it has spread to many countries and especially to montane tropical and subtropical rainforests and coastal lands.

Apart from the common species of cattley-guava, there is another sub-species which is, Psidium cattleianum var. lucidum, which produces yellow-coloured fruits, shining leaves, and is known as Lemon guava. Its tree reaches a greater height and is less hardy."

Raising plants for gardens and in pots: Cattley-guava is easily propagated by seed. Fresh seeds should be used and to ease germination, seeds should be rubbed between two sandpapers for a few minutes (scarification). Then they should be soaked in water for 2 – 3 days, changing the water every day. Sowing may be done directly in situ in the garden or the seedlings may be transplanted by raising them in polythene bags in a soil-sand-manure mixture. For growing in pots, large-sized pots should be preferred. Pot-mixture should be made by thorough mixing of 30 – 40 kg of farmyard manure, 1.5 – 2 kg of superphosphate, and 0.2 – 0.3 kg of muriate of potash along with a handful of neem cake for a pot of 50 – 60 cm cubic centimetre volume.

True-to-type plants are usually not obtained when raised from seeds but the yellow-fruited types retain many characters in the offspring. All characters are retained by the plants when raised vegetatively. Vegetative propagation of the tree may be done by air-layering, tip-layering, and root-cutting when done in the rainy season and more easily by the application of auxin. Budding may also be done by chip-budding method.

Planting and care: Cattley-guava is a hardy tree and grows in almost any type of soil. For large-scale plantations, plants may be set 3 – 4 meters apart. Culture is usually not necessary but 1 – 2 irrigations in summer are of great help. Mulching is also helpful. When planted as a hedge, foliar application of liquid manure at an interval of 4-5 months makes the trees highly bushy in appearance. 

The trees usually become very tall and may reach up to 9 meters if left as such. But dwarf trees are preferred for planting in ornamental gardens. To make so, the trees should be trained at an early stage of their growth by an open-centre (= vase) system by regular trimming of upright growing shoots. Bending the shoots and tying them to the ground is also helpful.

Securing fruits: The trees bear fruits within 2 – 3 years of planting. In India, two crops of cattley-guava are produced, one in the rainy season and then in winter, and the winter fruits are sweeter. Pruning the trees in winter by heading back and thinning-out systems greatly increases the yield and quality of fruits. The trees do not have any serious pest and disease problems. At a spacing of 3 – 5 meters, the trees may yield 12 – 15 tonnes of fruits from two crops in a year. Fruits are best relished when fully ripe, but they become very soft, and hence, harvesting should better be done in semi-ripe conditions.

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