Muntingia Calabura Propigation
This article was written to share the insight that I have gained about how to propagate Muntingia calabura (the Aratiles tree). The following are some successful techniques and pitfalls discovered after some experimentation.
In the world of gardening (and other fields) the source of accepted information can sometimes be based on legend, conjecture and opinion. Therefore, I have begun to do some gardening experimentation to clarify potentially unsupported ideas.
Specifically, there are several reports about how the Muntingia calabura tree can be propagated. I have listed the top options below. In my quest, I started down this list and eventually stumbled upon an option that worked for me.
List of potential propagation methods:
- Seeds from the Aratiles fruit are be squeezed out of the fruit directly into the fields.
- Aratiles seeds are be cleaned, dried and saved for future planting.
- Shoots that come up from the main/mother trees roots are be harvested and replanted.
- The Aratiles tree can be propagated by the process of “air layering.”
- Soaking the seeds in vinegar has been used in efforts to duplicate the effects of the seeds passing through a birds digestive tract.
Evaluating the list
1st option (from the list above):
- There are a few online references about Brazilian farmers methods of growing this tree by just squeezing the seeds out of the fresh fruit into the fields. Therefore, my first attempt at propagating the Muntingia calabura tree was to duplicate this method at home. I tried this general method in all kinds of growing conditions; I sowed the Aratiles tree seeds in the shade, in the sun, under irrigation lines, in rocky soil, in fertile soil, etc. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no luck with any variation of this technique that I tried.
2nd (almost) attempt:
- I thought about trying the cleaning the Aratiles tree seeds option that is mentioned above… However, the seeds of this plant are so freeking small, I just couldn’t imagine how this was a practical solution. So yea, I just skipped this option.
3rd option (from the list above):
- I have heard some reports that young green shoots will pop-up from the roots of a mature Aratiles tree like suckers. These shots can apparently be harvested and grown into a new tree. However, in my experience, I have never seen this type of growth pattern from the roots of the Aratiles tree.
- Therefore, I wonder if this apparent growth pattern is the result of two possibilities:
- In warmer tropical areas, the growing conditions may be more optimal to allow the Aratiles tree to demonstrate this particular phenotypic growth pattern. Likewise, the suboptimal-dry growing conditions in Southern California may not allow this type of growth to occur.
- The apparent observation may actually be the result of new Aratiles tree seedlings growing under the tree from dropped seeds/fruit… and not from shoots popping-up from the main trees roots.
4th and 5th options (listed above):
- Haven’t tried these options yet
New option (not previously listed):
- After my initial failed experience, I begin to wonder if I needed to try a few different growing conditions in a more controlled environment. Therefore, I designed a controlled Aratiles tree propagation experiment.
Aratiles Tree Propagation Experiment:
- I filled four small seedling containers with two different types of soil.
- Two containers were filled with peat moss and two containers were filled with a tropical type of planting soil mix. This tropical planting soil mix is equal parts of grow mulch, native soil and peat moss.
- The four small seedling containers were connected to each other for convenience.
Sow the Aratiles tree seeds: (Sept 4, 2015)
- On September 4, 2015, eight similar appearing Muntingia calabura (Aratiles tree) fruit were picked fresh at the same time.
- The Muntingia calabura fruit was then squeezed so that the pulp fell on top of the seedling soil.
- The pulp with seeds of two fruits was squeezed on to the top of the soil for each container.
- The seedy pulp for both the peat moss soil and the tropical mix was left on top of the soil on the one side of the joined containers (this is the left side in the provided images). On the right side, the seedy pulp for both the peat moss soil and the tropical mix was worked just under the soil surface.
Summary of containers:
- P1. Peat moss soil: seeds of 2 fruit rests on top of the soil.
- P2. Peat moss soil: seeds of 2 fruit worked just under the soil surface.
- T1. Tropical soil: seeds of 2 fruit rests on top of the soil.
- T2. Tropical soil: seeds of 2 fruit worked just under the soil surface.
Aratiles tree propagation conditions:
- The soil was kept moist for the duration of the experiment.
- The seedling container was placed in a South facing window next to the kitchen sink.
- Sept 14, 2014: Aratiles tree seedlings sprout from container P2 only (10 days to first germination).
- Sept 19, 2014: Aratiles tree seedlings can be seen in all containers except for P1.
- Sep 23, 2014: A white fungus is more clearly seen as the reason for the lack of growth in container P1. However, there are a few Aratiles tree seedlings growing on the edges of the P1 container that are not in contact with the fungus.
- Oct 5, 2014: Continued growth of the Aratiles tree seedlings in the P2 container are significantly larger than the other containers.
- Oct 16, 2014: The few surviving Aratiles tree seedlings in container P1 are now the second largest in size. The largest sized Aratiles tree seedlings are still in container P2. Some seedlings in container P2 are clearly much larger than others in the same container. There seems to be an even split with a larger and smaller group of Aratiles tree seedlings in P2. The Aratiles tree seedlings in T1 and T2 are the smallest compared to the other containers and T1 and T2 seedlings are roughly the same small size.
- Oct 21, 2014: The trend from Oct 16th continues.
- Oct 31, 2014: Mysterious partial die off of Aratiles tree seedlings in container T1. Suspect fungal infection.
- Jan 9, 2015: Massive sudden die off of Aratiles tree seedlings in all containers. This is most notable in container P2. This sudden die off occurred right after the kitchen window was cleaned with a detergent spray. Therefore, highly suspect that the detergent spray mist fell on the leaves of the seedlings and that is the cause of the sudden and dramatic damage.
- Jan 9, 2015: The remaining Aratiles tree seedlings were covered with the clear plastic bottom of a strawberry container. This is intended to protect seedlings from future over-spray. Also expect that this will contribute to more stable growing conditions and increased humidity.
- Feb 9, 2015: Remaining Aratiles tree seedling in P2 continue to grow. A few Aratiles tree seedlings in T2 takeoff in growth to match remaining seedling in P2. Other Aratiles tree seedlings of various smaller size show minimal additional growth.
- Mar 14, 2015: The few largest Aratiles tree seedlings continue to grow large. Many smaller seedlings planted at the same time remain small. There also seems to have been another round of delayed seedling sprouting from the initial planting. The plastic cover was removed because of the size of the largest seedlings.
- Mar 25, 2015: Continued growth from Mar 14, 2015
- April 23, 2015: Continued growth, most notably of the largest Aratiles tree seedlings.
Update June 4th 2015.
The small Aratiles trees were transplanted to a larger pot today. In the process, you can see a side view of the dominant taproot from a seedling that grew at the edge of the container (see pics below).
Update September 12, 2015:
- Wondering how long it takes Muntingia Calabura to flower from seed? Well I have the answer.
- Today, (almost exactly one year after planting the seeds) one of the seedlings from the experiment has put out its first flower (see pictures below).
- Aratiles trees can be successfully germinated without the need for any complicated seed preparation.
- In this small experiment, peat moss seemed to be associated with early accelerated growth.
- Seedlings grown in the same soil and planting conditions have demonstrated varying growth rates. This growth variation could possibly be the result of a few factors. For example, the seeds of this plant may be intentionally programmed with this variation in germination time and speed as a way to ‘hedge the bets’ for the optimal environmental growing conditions. On the other hand, the difference in seedling growth that was observed may also be the result of the seeds coming from different fruits.
- Mold is an issue that can kill Aratiles tree seedlings. The seeds that were worked just under the soil surface seemed to be protected from this fungal infection. The presence of the Aratiles tree fruit pulp mixed in with the seeds may have contributed to fungal growth. Therefore, washing the seeds before planting could potentially reduce the chance of fungal infection.
- Accidental kitchen cleaning detergent over-spray on the Aratiles tree leaves may kill seedlings. Protect the plants from harsh chemicals.
- My initial failure at growing the seeds directly outside may have been the result of snails. Therefore, these ravenous gastropods may have removed any evidence of early outdoor seedling growth. Therefore, I recommend that you grow these young seedlings in a snail protected environment.
For more information about growing this wonderful tree and its fruit, please check out the article Aratiles tree: Cultivating the cotton candy flavored fruit.
Note: Muntingia Calabura is also known by many different names:
Aratiles tree, Strawberry tree, Jamaican cherry, Panama berry, Singapore cherry, Bajelly tree, Strawberry tree, Bolaina, Yamanaza, Cacaniqua, Capulín blanco, Cigua, Niguito, Memizo,Memiso, Kersen, Trứng cá, Thực vật, Aratilis, Aratiles, Manzanitas, Sarisa, Ceri Kampung, village cherry, palman, bersilana, jonote, puan, capulin de comer, pasito or majagüillo, chitató, majagüito, chirriador, acuruco, tapabotija, nigua, majagua, majaguillo, mahaujo, guácimo hembra, cedrillo, niguo, niguito, nigüito, iumanasa, yumanaza, guinda yunanasa, mullacahuayo, calabura, pau de seda, cedrillo majagua, capulina, chapuli, bois d’ orm, bois de soie marron, memiso, memizo, bois ramier, bois de soie, datiles, ratiles, latires, cereza, seresa, takop farang or ta kob farang, kakhop, cay trung ca, buah cheri, kerukup siam, Japanese cherry, Chinese cherry, jam fruit.
Note on a bit of naming confusion: One of the most common names for this tree is strawberry tree. However, this is also a name used for several other trees including the European native Arbutus unedo.