Xeriscape

Synsepalum dulcificum - miracle fruit

The Miracle Fruit is native to West Africa where it is cultivated in backyard plantings. Today it has been introduced to Florida, California and numerous tropical areas of the world, however you will find most people have never heard of it. The fruit is more of a novelty then a significant source of food or nutrients, however there appears to be increasing interest in the berry and the incredible sweetening effects it has when eaten in conjunction with sour and acidic foods.

The taste of the fruit itself is nothing spectacular to speak of. There is relatively little fruit around the shiny seed. The pulp tastes somewhat like a cherry. However, due to a substance in the fruit called ‘miriculine’ it has the power to inhibit the receptors of sour and acidic flavors on your tongue, thus rendering certain foods sweet when normally they are sour, such as lemons, tomatoes, beer, some cheeses, hot sauce, vinegar, wine, and so forth. Miracle fruit changes the flavor of foods and beverages that you wouldn’t typically consider to be sour or acidic, and some foods are not affected at all.

There is growing interest in this fruit looking into its potential applications in cancer and diabetes research.

The tree is small, with attractive foliage, and, when in fruit, covered in bright red berries. I have a huge number of these trees in urban nurseries, they are great for container growing and seem to produce more fruit when its roots are somewhat contained.

Article from the New York Times: A Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue

Bursera hindsiana (or epinnata) - Jatropha cuneata, Cercidium microphyllum, and Unidentified Shrub (forward right corner), Baja, Mexico

matacora, bursera hindsiana, palo verde
matacora, bursera hindsiana, palo verde

Two views of three small trees and a shrub. The trees are, starting from forward left hand corner in the photo directly below are: Matacora (Jatropha cuneata), Torote Prieto (Bursera hindsiana), and Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum).

palo verde, bursera, matacora
palo verde, bursera, matacora

Cercidium (Parkinsonia) microphyllum - Palo Verde, Dipua

palo-verde1.jpg

Palo Verde grow as a large bush or small to medium size tree. It has smooth, greenish photosynthetic bark. There are numerous species of Cercidium (sonorae, praecox, peninsulare), which can are referred to variously as Palo Verde, Palo Estribo, and Dipua. There is some confusion amongst the layperson as to what, exactly, this differentiation is. Thus, to such individuals, all Cercidium species are thought to be "Palo Verde". This, of course, is not the case. The below photos are of Cercidium microphyllum, which can be distinguished from other Cercidium species by the lack of nodal thorns. Instead of nodal thorn thorns the tree has closely crowded spiny branchlet tips in broom-like arrangements. 

palo-verde.jpg

Natives of the area used to (and probably still do to an extent) shell, toast and grind the seeds to store for winter sustenance. Reportedly, unless the seeds are fully ripe when harvested, dried and processed, they can cause severe diarrhea. The upper branches have been known to be used as a forage for mules, horses and burros (donkeys).

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