Definitions

eugenia dicrana

Eugenia

[yoo-jee-nee-uh, -jeen-yuh]

Eugenia is a genus of flowering plants in the myrtle family Myrtaceae. It has a worldwide, although highly uneven, distribution in tropical and subtropical regions. The bulk of the approximately 1,000 species occur in the New World tropics, especially in the northern Andes, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Forest (coastal forests) of eastern Brazil. Other centers of diversity include New Caledonia and Madagascar. Many species new to science have been and are in the process of being described from these regions. For example, 37 new species of Eugenia have been described from MesoAmerica in the past few years. At least 20 new species are currently in the process of being described from New Caledonia, and approximately the same number of species new to science may occur in Madagascar. Ironically, despite the enormous ecological importance of the myrtle family in Australia (e.g. Eucalpytus, Corymbia, Angophora, Melaleuca, Callistemon, Rhodamnia, Gossia), only one species of Eugenia,E.reinwardtiana, occurs on that continent. The genus also is represented in Africa south of the Sahara, but it is relatively species-poor on that continent. In the past some botanists included the morphologically similar Old World genus Syzygium in Eugenia, but research by Rudolf Schmid in the early 1970s convinced most botanists that the genera are easily separable. Research by van Wyk and colleagues in South Africa suggests the genus may be comprised of at least two major lineages, recognizable by anatomical and other features.

All species are woody evergreen trees and shrubs. Several are grown as ornamental plants for their attractive glossy foliage, and a few produce edible fruit that are eaten fresh or used in jams and jellies.

Eugenia species are sometimes used as food plants by the larvae of hepialid moths of the genera Aenetus (including A. splendens) and Endoclita (including E. damor and E. malabaricus). Aenetus species burrow horizontally into the trunk then vertically down. Other Lepidoptera larvae which feed on Eugenia include Eupseudosoma aberrans and Snowy Eupseudosoma.

Selected species

Eugenia aggregata is native to Brazil, a large shrub or small tree which grows to 5 meters in height. Leaves are dark glossy green, elliptical, to 7 cm long. White flowers mature into reddish fruits, which grow to 2 cm long and have the flavor of cherries.

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