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What Is a Brush Cherry?

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  • Written By: M. Haskins
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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There are two tree species that are commonly called brush cherry: Syzygium paniculatum and Syzygium australe. Both species belong to the Myrtaceae family of plants and are evergreen trees native to eastern Australia's rain forests. Both are also grown as garden plants and are similar in appearance, with glossy, dark green, oval-shaped leaves; white flowers growing in clusters; and edible fruit that usually is red in color. These two types of trees previously were classified as a single species under the name Eugenia australis, but botanists have revised this and now classify them as two separate species.

Most commonly, the term "brush cherry" refers to different varieties of the species Syzygium paniculatum, a popular garden plant not only in its native Australia but also in North America, especially in areas with a relatively warm climate, such as Florida and California. It is a plant known by many names, including its old Latin name, Eugenia myrtifolia. In Australia, it is sometimes called a magenta lilly pilly or magenta cherry, and in the United States, it is sometimes referred to as a Monterey Bay.

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This type of brush cherry tree grows to a height of about 35 feet (10 m) in the Australian rain forest, but in a garden setting, it can quite easily be trimmed to smaller sizes. These trees can be used as topiary plants or as garden shrubs, they can be grown as hedges or screens, or they can be allowed to grow to their full size. Smaller varieties are available as potted plants, and some can even be used as bonsai trees, growing barely more than 12 inches (30 cm) tall. This versatility when it comes to size is one reason for the popularity of this particular cherry.

The other brush cherry species, Syzygium australe, is a common garden plant in Australia, where it is also called a scrub cherry. In the wild, it can grow up to 80 feet (25 m) tall, but it usually is much smaller when cultivated. Some varieties grow only about 7 feet (2 m) tall. Trees of this species are commonly grown as hedges and shrubs in Australian gardens.

Both species of brush cherry trees prefer to grow in partial sun or partial shade and in rich, consistently moist soil. They grow best in warmer climates, preferably in temperate to subtropical temperatures. The fruit produced by both kinds of brush cherry trees is round, cherry-sized and usually dark red, but it can be pink, purple or even black. It can be eaten fresh or made into jam, and the flavor is reminiscent of sour apples.

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Discuss this Article

bagley79
Post 4

Does anyone know if a cherry bonsai tree produces fruit or is this just more for ornamental purposes? I love bonsai trees and think a cherry bonsai tree would be beautiful, but really don't want to bother with any fruit.

I am looking for something in the shape of a bonsai tree, that has the fragrance of the flowers but not the messiness of the fruit.

I also wonder if you get fruit when you plant the topiary cherry trees. I have always enjoyed the ornamental look of these trees, but really don't know much about them or how to take care of them.

myharley
Post 3

I love cherries and planted a dwarf cherry tree a few years ago. There were several reasons why I chose a dwarf tree over a regular sized one.

With most cherry trees like a brush cherry, it can take as long as ten years after being planted before you will have any fruit. With the dwarf variety, I had fruit after just three years.

That can still seem like a long time when you are waiting for your own fresh cherries, but it was worth the wait. The dwarf trees are also easier to prune and manage because they don't grow nearly as tall.

I have been so pleased with this tree, that I am going to plant another one this year so I have more than one cherry tree producing fruit.

julies
Post 2

I don't much about the different kinds of cherry trees, but have a couple of them on my property that produce cherries every year.

I live in the Midwest where we have cold winters, so these must not be brush cherry trees. I know that some people will have special landscaping with cherry trees. I have seen many of these in a weeping variety that really look pretty in the spring.

I can usually get some good cherries from the trees on my property. I will always make a fresh cherry crisp, and freeze the rest of them to use later in the year.

SarahSon
Post 1

My grandparents live in California and have a row of Monterey Bay brush cherry trees on one side of their property. There was a long row of these that separated their property from their neighbor.

If we were there when the cherries were ripe, we loved to pick them and my grandma would make desserts and jam with them.

Eating a piece of her cherry pie fresh from the oven, with cherries you helped pick was a real treat. Any time I eat a piece of cherry pie, I am reminded of picking the cherries from her trees.

I remember how surprised I was the first time I ate one from fresh from the tree. It wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be and found they were much better after some kind of sweetener was added to them!

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