February 4, 2018

Hardy Tamarillos (Cyphomandra sp.div.)

To genus Cyphomandra belongs about 48 species of small trees or shrubs, sometimes with edible fruits (but all other parts of them are toxic). They all have been recently included to genus Solanum to sections Pachyphylla (35 species native to Central and South America) and Cyphomandropsis (with about 13 species origin to South America). Their leaves often emits pungent, muscat, rather unpleasant smell. The most known species is  Common Tamarillo (Cyphomandra beteacea = Solanum betaceum) which does not survive a frost. It is cultivated in numerous parts of world in tropics and subtropics as fruit tree. A few other species are very rarely cultivated also for their fruits. 
The ripe fruits of Hardy Tamarillo (Cyphomandra corymbiflora)
The first (and well known) hardy species is Hardy Tamarillo (Cyphomandra corymbiflora, syn. Solanum corymbiflorum). It is small (about 0,5-3 m = 2-10 ft tall) deciduous tree or shrub. The is native to south Brazil (Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina) and adjacent provinces of Argentina. It is probably the most frost and cold hardy species of all Tamarillos – it is resistant to frost in range 16-23 F degree [= (-5) – (-10) C degree] and can survive a winter outside in zone 8b and warmer. The branches of it are thick, leaves – large and heart shaped. The flowers are very ornamental. They change a color with age - are whitish (older) or purple (younger) and they are created very freely in large umbels. The fruits are pale green with dark green stripes, pubescent, ovate, in size about 1-3cm (= 0,4 -1,2 inch) long. They are edible with mild, pleasant, exotic taste. This is difficult to growing from seeds (they should be sown surface and germinate slowly and irregularly). It can be probably also propagated by cuttings. It is self-incompatible and there are necessary at least 2 genetically various plants to creating the fruits. The flowers are pollinated by insects, but in my experience very poorly (in season 2017 my 3 plants created only 1 fruit). Maybe in next year will be better. The fruits ripe after about 5-6 months after pollination (so very slowly), but they can mature even in cool cellar in autumn/winter in temperature about 5 C degree (= 41 F degree). All the same for harvesting fully developed seeds (to sowing) it is better if fruits are ripening in something warmer temperatures.
Cyphomandra corymbiflora
Young plant

The flowers are very ornamental

Young fruit

Ripe fruit
It has very nice exotic taste
The second hardy species - less known – is Guava Tamarillo (Cyphomandra fragrans, syn. Solanum diploconos), also called “Glossy-leaved Tamarillo”. It is native to south and south-east Brazil (Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul) and adjacent Argentina and Paraguay. There were attempts of its cultivation as fruit tree on New Zealand. It has very, very ornamental leaves and very thick trunk (about 6-12 cm = 2-5 inch diameter in down part). This small tree with umbrella-like shape of upper branches can reach about 1,5-2,5 m (= 5-8 ft) if grown in medium size pots (or to 4 m = 13 ft in nature). The leaves of juvenile plants are deeply lobed. Older ones are entire. It is not widely known that this species is also very resistant to frost [in winter 2016/17 it survived in my cool cellar the permanent constant temperature about (– 1) C degree (= 30 F degree) by at least 1,5 month and short periods with lower temperatures – I am not sure, but probably - to about (-5) – (-8) C degree = 18-23 F degree]. Although the plants were damaged by frost but 3 (of all 4 which I had) of them survived this winter and resprouted after a cutting (shorting died shoots) in spring. These plants need to have completely dry soil in winter to they could survive the frost. But it is very drought resistant and can survive 4 months without any watering in its native range and even longer drought if kept in cold temperatures inside (in cool cellar etc.) in winter in temperate areas (my plants survived more than 6 months in leaf-less state). It is also resistant to some shade and water-lodging (if grown in pots). As pot plant it can be so-called “iron-plant” – it can survive almost every bad conditions. In cool areas this species is deciduous. In winter the leaves and thin branches are dying. The only defect of it is this that it does not want flower and fruit in my 50° N latitude. There are probably too long days in summer for this day-length sensitive plant. In its native range it creates very numerous small (about 2-4cm = 0,8-1,6 inch long), ovate, yellow delicious fruits with exotic aroma (they taste similar to passion fruit). In lower latitudes it starts to fruiting when 1,5 year old from seeds. Guava Tamarillo can be easily propagated by seeds (sow surface) or cuttings (with heel). This species is very  difficult to buying and rare in wild state - it is classified as 'Near Threatened' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2011).
 Cyphomandra fragrans
Young seedling

Young plants have lobed leaves
Young tree
Older, a few years old, trees
Young inflorescence

The ripe fruits
Cyphomandra corymbiflora and C. fragrans are closely genetically related and both consist to taxonomic S. diploconos clade. According prof. Lynn Bohs they can be successful hybridized to obtain intermediate in appearance hybrids which creates full developed fruits (and sometimes viable seeds).
There are numerous other rare Cyphomandra species. I am looking for especially Cyphomandra sciadostylis = Solanum sciadostylis (from southeastern Brazil and adjacent areas of Argentina and Paraguay) and other species which belongs to Solanum diploconos clade: S. pinetorum, S. latiflorum, S. exiguum and S. cacosmum. If you have available their seeds or cuttings please write to me.


  1. Do you have seeds or cuttings for sale or trade? Thanks. Email me at b.rie.laufer@gmail.com

  2. Brian...I too am interested in seeds or cuttings...I was just reading about guava tamarillo. Thanks. mjproios@gmail.com


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