University of Florida Extension ServiceUF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail:  indianco@ufl.edu

  August 20, 2008

Quick Links:  Species     Description     Invasiveness   Homeowner Help    References

Feature Article – for release week of August 29, 2008

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent

 

Guava - An American Exotic

A popular fruit among many local residents is Guava, a woody shrub found growing in natural areas and in Florida Yards.  There are several popular fruiting types enjoyed by both people and wildlife, and are thought by some to be a native plant to our area.

While they can be described as American natives, they are not native to our area.  Guavas were brought to Florida from Latin America.  They have spread all over Florida since the mid 1800’s, and are now found worldwide.  Commercial Guava production is very limited now in Florida, but today is centered in Hawaii, Latin America, Southern Asia and other tropical areas.

Guava fruit are eaten fresh, can be cooked or made into preserves, and are a staple in many kitchens. Their ability to spread from seed and cuttings has allowed them to move into roadsides and wooded areas.  They are considered a weed to land managers and citrus growers.

Three Guavas

Three major guavas are commonly seen growing in our area, each with many different named varieties. They are members of the Myrtle family which often produce interesting and edible fruits enjoyed all over the world.

·        The common or Apple guava (Psidium guajava) has fruit that typically ripen as a yellow color. This species comes from Mexico and Central America. Two basic types grown in Florida - pink or red pulp types are consumed when ripe and white pulp types consumed when the fruit is green or crispy.

·        The Cattley Guava is also known as Strawberry guava (Psidium littoral). This plant tree is native to Brazil but grows well in south and central Florida. It often has multiple trunks and can be used as a hedge. The reddish colored edible fruit usually ripen in July and August.  A yellow colored fruiting type is known as the Lemon guava, but is the same species as the strawberry guava.  Fruit from this species are generally smaller than the common guava.

·        Occasionally seen is the Pineapple Guava or Feijoa (F. sellowiana). This shrub is grown in warmer areas of Florida.  It works well as a hedge because of its attractive flowers in addition to its larger sized edible fruit.  Feijoa (pronounced “fay-JOE-uh”) does not have the invasive habits of the other two guava plants above.

Common or Apple Guava typically have yellow skin and pink flesh, although there are many varieties that have differences in color.  Photo above: Gene Joyner, UF/IFAS. 

(Below) A recommend variety of the Common Guava is Homestead.  Photo: Jon Crane, TREC/IFAS/UF.

Cattley or Strawberry Guava usually have a red outer skin, and may have strawberry-like flavors. Guava are multi-stemmed woody shrubs and can have attractive patterns on the ark.  Photo above: Gene Joyner, UF/IFAS;  Photo below: Amy Ferriter, South Florida Water Management District, Bugwood.org  Pineapple Guava or Feijoa  Photo of Flower, above: Gene Joyner, UF/IFAS.  Fruit (below) is kiwi sized and is used fresh or in fruit drinks. Photo from Wikpedia,  courtesy of A.Currie
strawberry guava, Psidium cattleianum  (Myrtales: Myrtaceae)

Identifying Guavas

If given space and light, guava can grow into small trees to heights of 30 feet.  Guavas are easy to recognize because of their smooth, thin, copper-colored bark that flakes off, showing the greenish layer beneath.  The attractive patchwork quilted trunk makes them an accent plant for Florida Yards.  Be aware that in the landscape, the thin bark is easily damaged by string weed trimmers.

Guava leaves give off a distinctive odor when crushed. Foliage is evergreen, and the oval or oblong leaves will grow in pairs with short leaf stalks (petioles).

Faintly fragrant white flowers grow singly or in small clusters between the leaves and stems.  These flowers are about one inch wide, with 4 or 5 white petals which quickly drop and a large bunchy tuft of perhaps 250 white stamens tipped with pale-yellow anthers. The showy pineapple guava flowers have white/cream/gray and red colored petals. Bees typically pollinate guava flowers.

Common guava fruit give off a strong, sweet, musky odor when ripe.  They may be round, oval or pear-shaped.  When immature, the fruit is green, hard, and gummy with a very astringent flavor.  When ripe, fruit measure 2 to 4 inches long and have 4 or 5 protruding bumps at the blossom end.

Common guava fruit skin is thin.  Generally they ripen to a light-yellow skin color but are frequently pink blushed. Underneath is a layer of granular flesh. This fleshy layer can vary in color from white, yellow to pink or near-red, with juicy, acid to sweet flavors.  

The central pulp is slightly darker, juicy and usually filled with round 1/8 inch sized seeds.  Some varieties of guavas have soft, chewable seeds, while others are hard; seed counts can range from the hundreds to almost seedless.

The small, sour guavas found in the wild are best used for processing.  There are many uses for guavas - guava paste is added to pastries and guava juice is found in tropical juice blends.

Guava thickets

In many parts of the world, the guava runs wild and forms extensive thickets – called "guayabales" in Spanish.   They can overrun pastures, fields and roadsides.  Here in Florida, guava has been assessed and determined to be invasive by the UF/IFAS Invasive Plants Working Group.  Because of this, it is not recommended by IFAS for planting in south Florida; guava may be planted in central Florida but should be managed to prevent escape.

 

 

This fruit fly is about ready to lay an egg inside this guava, making it unsuitable for human consumption. 

Photo: USDA ARS  

The guava is a prime host of the Mediterranean, Oriental, Mexican and Caribbean fruit flies.  Ripe fruits can be infested with the larvae and are then unusable except as livestock feed. Fruit must be picked before full maturity at least 3 times a week or protected by covering with paper sacks when small. Infested fruits should be burned or otherwise destroyed. 

 

Parasitic wasps that attack the larvae and pupae of these fruit flies have been released and have helped to reduce this menace.  Commercial citrus growers wishing to export their citrus fruit must insure “fly-free zones.” To do this they may actively gain the permission of landowners to remove guavas from areas around commercial citrus plantings.  In some cases, zoning regulations prohibit the planting of guava in certain areas as a means to support export quality citrus.

 

For homeowners who wish to know more about this fruit, details on site selection, propagation from seed or cuttings, general cultural requirements, pruning, pest management and fruit handling are contained in bulletins available from our office or on-line.

I’ve placed pictures and more information on our award-winning Okeechobee web page, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu. If you need additional information on guavas in your Florida Yard, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee, and visit our Okeechobee County Master Gardeners from 1 to 3 PM on Tuesday afternoons.  Pray for the storms to pass, have a Happy Labor Day and, Go Gators!

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Trade  names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Larry A.  Arrington, Dean. Last update: 01/28/2010.  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert  

  References

California Rare Fruit Growers. Tropical Guava (Fruit Facts).  Fullerton, CA: CRFG, 1996.  http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/guava.html 

Crane, Jonathan H. and Balerdi, Carlos F.  Guava Growing in the Florida Home Landscape [HS 4].  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 2005.   http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG045  

Gilman, E & Watson, D.  Feijoa sellowiana: Feijoa [ENH-408].  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 3/2007.   http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ST249 

ibid. Psidium littorale: Cattley Guava [ENH-687]. Gainesville: UF/IFAS Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 12/2006. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ST529  

Maguire, Ian.  Guava Hedging (Tropical Fruit Photo archives).   Homestead: Tropical Research & Education Center, UF/IFAS, 2/05/02. http://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/tfphotos/020102.htm 

Morton, Julia. "Guava". In: Fruits of Warm Climates, p. 356–363. Miami: Fairchild Tropical Gardens, 1987. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/guava.html

Simonne, Amy et al.  South Florida Tropicals: Guava [FCS 8526].  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Florida Cooperative Extension Service,   August 2007.  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/HE619