Related species
Description and phenology
Distribution, abundance and ecology
Uses and economic potential
Collection methods and yields
Propagation and cultivation methods
Research contacts
Commercial contacts

Wanders B. Chávez Flores

Family: Myrtaceae

Species: Myrciaria dubia (H.B.K.) McVaugh (1963)

Synonyms: Psidium dubium Kunth; Eugenia divaricata Benth.; Myrciaria phyllyraeoides Berg; M. divaricata (Berth.) Berg; M. paraensis Berg; M. caurenses Steyerm.; M. spruceana Berg

Common names: caçari, araça d'agua - Brazil (Cavalcante 1988, Ferreira 1986); guayabo - Colombia; camu-camu, camo-camo - Peru (Ferreyra 1959, Gutierrez 1969); guayabito - Venezuela (Romero 196]); camu-plus - E.E.U.U. (Calzada 1980).

Related species

Myrciaria cauliflora Berg or M. jaboticaba Berg - The "jabuticaba" is a small tree native to the central south of Brazil, where it grows spontaneously in the sub-tropical climates of Minas Gerais and São Paulo, although it adapts well in warmer areas, like Espirito Santo and Rio de Janeiro or cooler areas like Paraná (Gomes 1977, Andersen & Andersen 1988, Anônimo 1989). It is found on diverse soil types, although it prefers rich, deep, well-drained soils with sufficient moisture (Cañizares 1968, Gomes 1977, Andersen & Andersen 1988).

Barbosa Rodrigues (cited by Gomes 1977) states that there are two species of jaboticaba: M. jaboticaba, with small fruit and a dark-colored peduncle; M. caulifolra, with large, sessile fruit. He affirms that there are several types within M. cauliflora: jabuticaba "Sabará", which is widely planted, very productive, with small flavorful fruits and early maturation; jabuticaba "Paulista", which is very productive, with large fruits and late maturation; jabuticaba "Rajada", with large, flavorful fruits and mid-season maturation; jabuticaba "Branca", a medium-size plant, with large delicious fruit of a green color; jabuticaba "Ponhema", a large-size plant, with large fruit, a leathery rind, that should be consumed very ripe.

The Federal University of Viçosa has obtained numerous species and types of Myrciaria from diverse regions of Brazil (Andersen & Andersen 1988), some of which have not been identified botanically and are not listed here:

- M. jaboticaba Berg: "Sabará", jabuticaba-murta;
- M. cauliflora Berg: "Paulista", "Punhema", jabuticaba-açu;
- M. peruviana (Poir) var. truncifolia Mattos: jabuticaba de cabinho;
- M. coronata Mattos: jabuticaba-coroada, olho-de-boi;
- M. grandifolia Mattos: jabuticabatuba, jabuticaba-graúda
- M. phitrantha Kiaersk: jabutica-costada;
- M. alongata Mattos: jabuticaba-azeda.

The tree takes from 4 to 10 years to start producing, which is a major limiting factor and the reason that most producers maintain only home gardens or small plantations (Ferreira et al. 1987, Andersen & Andersen 1988, Anônimo 1989). The fruit is a small round berry, with a reddish-purple to black rind and a whitish sweet pulp with an agreeable flavor, surrounding 1 to 4 seeds (Gomes 1977). Average yields vary from 500 to 800 kg of fresh fruit per tree (Anônimo 1989) or about 100 boxes of 40 liters (Gomes 1977) from mature trees. Flowering occurs between August and September (Andersen & Andersen 1988), although there can be minor flowerings at other times. The trees may produce nearly year round, with a major harvest and up to three minor ones (Calzada 1980, Cañizares 1968). The fruit has not developed a large market because they are so perishable (Anônimo 1989). Their shelf life is measured in days, after which they lose flavor and start to ferment.

A chemical analysis of 100 g of juice from the jabuticaba "Sabará" gave the following results (Andersen & Andersen 1988):

- Soluble solids: 14 g
- Total acids (as citric acid): 1.24 g
- Ratio soluble solids/total acids: 11.3
- Total sugars: 10,87 g

- reducing sugars: 9.4 g
- non-reducing sugars: 1.47 g

- Vitamin C: 117.5 mg

The fruit is consumed fresh or prepared as a nectar, preserve, jelly, liquor, wine, brandy or vinegar. It is also used as a home remedy and a food coloring (Cañizares 1968, Calzada 1980, Leon 1987, Andersen & Andersen 1988, (Anônimo 1989).

Description and phenology

The camu-camu is a shrub or small tree, 4-8 m tall, without a detectable trunk, heavily branched from ground level, although each secondary branch has few tertiary branches. The bark on the secondary branches is a brownish-bronze color and that which is found on the tertiary branches is a greenish-brown to greenish gray. The bark is smooth and, as in other Myrtaceae, peels naturally. The leaves are entire, opposite, petioled; the petiole is 3-6 mm long by 1 mm in diameter; the leaf blade is lanceolate, occasionally oval, glabrous, 3-5 cm long by 1-2 cm wide, with 16-30 primary nerves united by a submarginal nerve.

The inflorescences are axillary, with 1-12 subsessile flowers, arranged in pairs. The calix is globular to sub-globular, with 4 ovoid lobes, glabrous; the corolla has 4 white petals that alternate with the ovoid sepals.

The spherical fruit is 2-3 cm in diameter, reddish-purple to purplish-black when mature, with a 10 mm or shorter peduncle. The pulp is acidic, edible, with an agreeable flavor. It contains 1-4 elliptical, flattened seeds, covered with short white fibers.

In the wild, most plants will flower after attaining 2 cm in stem girth, with flowers appearing throughout the crown (Peters & Vasquez 1986/87). In Peru, flowering starts at the beginning of the flood season, usually in July, extending to September (Picon et al. 1987, Gutierrez 1969, Alvarado 1969, FAO 1986), with fruiting from September to December (Alvarado 1969, Gutierrez 1969). New leaves appear throughout the year.

On the dry uplands in central Amazônia, the phenology is similar: flowering in September to December and fruiting from December to April (Chavez 1988). Falcão et al. (1989) suggested that this is influenced by the rainy season, with flowering at the end of the dry season and fruiting during the rainiest part of the humid season. Ferreira (1986) states that in a good year, with abundant rainfall, camu-camu may flower during most of the year on the uplands. Leafing also occurs year round on the uplands, although Falcão et al. (1989) found more abundant leafing at the beginning of the flowering period.

According to Picon et al. (1987) and Mendoza et al. (1989) there may be two species of camu-camu: M. dubia, a shrubby plant located primarily on the active erosion area and first river or lake flooded terraces; Myrciaria sp., a small tree located primarily in drier areas along the second flood terrace or the edge of the uplands.

Distribution, abundance and ecology

The camu-camu is a shrubby species native to the floodplains of Amazônia, whose center of origin has not been determined. Some authors affirm that it is native to some tributaries of the Amazon River in Peru (Ferreyra 1959, Calzada 1978, 1980, Picon et al. 1987, Mendoza et al. 1989). The distribution established by McVaugh (1969) extends from the center of Pará, state, Brazil, along the mid and upper Amazon River to the eastern part of Peru; in the north it appears in the Casiquiare and the upper and middle Orinoco River. In Brazil it is found in Rondônia along the Maçangana and Urupa Rivers (Ferreira 1986) and in Amazonas, in the municipalities of Manaus and Manacapuru (Cavalcante 1988) and along the Javarí, Madeira and Negro Rivers (Chávez 1988).

Camu-camu is an important element of the riparian vegetation in western Brazil, eastern Colombia and Peru and southern Venezuela (McVaugh 1958, Alvarado 1969, Peters & Vasquez 1986/87). According to Calzada (1980), Picon et al. (1987) and Peters & Vasquez (1986/87) it is common along the margins of rivers and lakes in the Peruvian Amazon, where large natural, nearly mono-specific populations are found; isolated individuals are rarely encountered. In natural populations, C. Peters (NYBG, pers. com.) has found as many as 12,310 plants/ha.

The camu-camu is extremely tolerant of flooding, withstanding 4 to 5 months with the roots and even one-half or two-thirds of the stem submerged in water (Alvarado 1969, Calzada 1980, Ferreira 1986, FAO 1986, Peters & Vasquez 1986/87, Chavez 1988, Falcão et al. 1989).

In the wild state, camu-camu is found only in hot, humid areas, Holdridge et al.'s (1971) "Humid Tropical Forest". It grows mostly on alluvial soils with a clay-silt texture, a pH 5(Alvarado 1969, Gutierrez 1969, Calzada 1980, Ferreira 1986, Chavez 1988, Falcão et al. 1989). It adapts reasonably well on the poor, acidic (pH 4-4.5), upland soils in Iquitos and Manaus (McVaugh 1958, Chavez 1988, Falcão et al. 1989). It grows well with mean annual temperatures of 20-30C, an annual rainfall of 1,500-3,000 mm, and an annual relative humidity of 78-82% (Alvarado 1969, Calzada 1980, Ferreira 1986, FAO 1986, Peters & Vaquez 1986/87, Chavez 1988, Falcão et al. 1989). Picon et al. (1987) and Chavez (1988) affirm that it is a heliophyllous species.

Uses and economic potential

The major potential use of camu-camu is as a source of organic vitamin C, since this may attain 2.99 g/100 g of fresh fruit (Table 1). Mendoza et al. (1989) affirms that this value is 60 times that of the lemon (Citros limon) which contains only 44 mg/100 g. The vitamin C is present in both the pulp and the fruit rind, both of which are generally used (Calzada 1980). J. Andrade (INPA, pers. com.) has found that the fruit rind contain" up to 5 g/100 g.

Alvarado (1969) explored several different uses for the concentrated juice; it makes an excellent flavoring for ice creams and can be diluted to make juices or mix with other fruits for fruit punch. In Iquitos, Peru, the most common use is as a fresh juice (Alvarado 1969, Gutierrez 1969, FAO 1986, Peters & Vasquez 1986/87). Use in jams, jellies, wines, liquors and pie fillings have been reported (Alvarado 1969, Gutierrez 1969, Calzada 1980, FAO 1986). Alvarado (1969) considers the juice, either concentrated or prepared for immediate consumption, and tablets, made from the fruit pulp and rind for organic vitamin C, to be exportable products. The vitamin C contained in several prepared products is presented in Table 2.

Table 1. Chemical analysis of nature fruit of camu-camu (g/100g of pulp) (Roca 1965).

















Thiamin (Vit.B1)






Riboflavin (Vit.B2)




Niacin (Vit.B5)




Reduced ascorbic act




Total ascorbic acid




Table 2. Reduced and total ascorbic acid in several products elaborated from camu-camu (Roca 1965).




Ice cream



Sweetened juice 1



Sweetened juice 2



Marmalade 1



Marmalade 2



Jelly without pectin



Jelly with pectin



Alvarado (1969) and Whitman (1974) commented that, in 1967, Nutritional Specialties, Inc. of Puerto Rico, in collaboration with the Banco de Fomento Agropecuário del Perú, imported several tons of camu-camu fruit to the US, with which they prepared several experimental products and marketed "organic" vitamin C tablets, sold under the name "Camu-Plus". The reasons for the failure of this effort are not given by these authors. Perhaps this product was marketed somewhat ahead of its time, since the real boom of organic vitamins came in the mid-1970's, or it was not marketed creatively enough by Nutritional Specialties.

Both in Brazil and in Peru there are large natural populations of camu-camu that are worth evaluating in terms of collecting from the wild and preparing products for the internal and export markets (Peters et al. 1989). These could be exploited during January to April, by establishing a small preprocessing plant in the community to wash and select fruit and to extract seeds, and then export the cleaned product to the major cities (Manaus or Iquitos) for use and export.

Collection methods and yields

The potential yields of camu-camu in the wild in Peru are limited by the natural flood levels of the rivers each year (Peters & Vasquez (1986/87). Alvarado (1969) found that individual plants in wild populations yield an average of 12 kg of fruit/plant and extrapolated this yield to the hectare level, assuming a spacing of 4 × 4 m (625 plants/ha), and estimated a total yield of 7.5 MT. C. Peters (NYBG, pers. com.) and Peters et al. (1989) consider an average wild population to contain about 1,224 fruiting plants/ha, with a yield potential of 9.512.6 MT of fresh fruit. On upland soils near Manaus and Iquitos, fruit production starts in the third or fourth year after planting out (Calzada 1981), Ferreira 1986, FAO 1986, Chávez 1988).

Fruit harvest in the wild or in cultivation occurs generally between December and April, with the greatest intensity in January and February (Alvarado 1969, Chávez 1988). A small harvest may be expected in June and July on the upland soils near Manaus (Chávez 1988). Harvesting is labor intensive, as the ripe fruit is picked from the shrub. In natural populations near Iquitos this is done from a canoe in the late afternoon or very early morning, so that they can then be transported to the morning market (Alvarado 1969, Calzada 1980). In cultivation the harvest should be done two or three times per week and the fruit sent to market immediately (FAO 1986, Chavez 1988).

Propagation and cultivation methods

Camu-camu is normally propagated from seed (Gutierrez 1969, Calzada 1980, Ferreira 1986, FAO 1986, Picon et al. 1987). Seed sown in composted sawdust or sandy loam start to germinate within 10 days and finish after another 20 days (Ferreira 1986). FAO (1986) reports that seed sown within two days after removal from the fruit will germinate rapidly and completely (14 to 21 days); after 3 days germination will be incomplete (90%) but rapid; seed sown 30 days after removal from the fruit and maintained in the local environment will not germinate. Alvarado (1969), Gutierrez (1969), Calzada (1980), Ferreira (1986) and Picon et al. (1987) state that camu-camu can be propagated vegetatively but do not report that results and experiments at INPA have been unsatisfactory. The only experiment with stem cuttings gave poor results (Pineda 1979).

The camu-camu is a species in the process of being domesticated. Studies on phenology, floral and plant biology, agronomy and ecology in the wild and in cultivation are being pursued in Brazil and Peru (Falcão et al. 1989).

This species may have & future as a monoculture crop, both within and outside of Amazônia, This is because it naturally Occurs in monospecific stands in the floodplains. Hence, it appear" to be tolerant or resistant to pests and disease-. In the floodplain, especially during peak flood period, no pests and diseases can attack it when most of the plant is under water. Additionally, at least in white water areas, it is always in a good nutritional state since all required nutrients are supplied by the river. This further enhances its resistance and tolerance. On the dry uplands near Manaus, a small monoculture of camu-camu at INPA has remained relatively pest and disease free for 10 years.

Ideal monoculture densities are still subject to discussion: Calzada (1980) and Ferreira (1986) recommend 625 plants/ha; FAO (1986) and Chávez (1988) recommend 1,111 plants/ha (3 × 3 m).

Camu-camu's utilization in agroforestry systems does not appear promising because of its growth habit and requirement for full sun (Picon et al. 1987).

Management of the large monospecific stands of camu-camu in western Amazônia, appears promising (Peters et al. 1989). Even intensively harvested, the stands recruit enough juveniles to maintain themselves indefinitely. Population and horticultural management techniques require research. For example, ideal densities could further increase reported yields of 9-12 MT/ha/yr and pruning might also enhance yields.

Research contacts

Mario H. Pinedo Panduro, Agronomist, MSc., Specialist in Native Crops, INIAA, Estación Experimental Agropecuaria "San Rogue", Apartado 307, Iquitos, Peru.

Consuelo Picon Boas, Agronomist, Specialist in Native Crops, INIAA, Estación Experimental Agropecuaria "San Roque", Apartado 307, Iquitos, Peru.

Jose Calzada Benza, Agronomist, Specialist in Native Crops, Av. Militar 2099(14), Lince, Lima, Peru.

Charles Peters, Botanist, PhD, Institute of Economic Botany, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York 10458, USA.

Wanders B. Chávez Flores, Agronomist, MSc., Perennial Crops Section, Dept. Agronomic Sciences, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Cx. Postal 478, 69011 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.

Estación Experimental Agropecuaria de Pucallpa, Instituto Nacional de Investigación Agraria y Agroindustrial - INIAA, Carretera Federico Basadre km 4, Pucallpa, Peru.

Commercial contacts

Cerveceria "San Juan", Carretera Pucallpa-Aguaitia km 30, Pucallpa, Peru.

Frutos del País S/A, Ir. Cajamarquilla 1241, Apartado 1174, Urb. Zarate, Lima (3), Peru.