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large in proportion to the size of the fruit. Also, there is usually a trace of bitterness in the skin. However, in the best varieties it is so slight as to be unobjectionable and the fruits compete well with imported cherries.

It is curious that this fruit doesn't have more negative features because it has scarcely benefited from concentrated horticultural improvement and so far has been propagated primarily by seed.4 This is not because of any inherent difficulty: both grafting and budding are easy and successful, and the plant also roots easily from softwood cuttings.5

The tree is extremely vigorous. It sets flowers and fruits heavily in its third—or even in its second—year of growth. It eventually reaches 10 m or more in height. Apparently, it is not exacting in its soil requirements and grows well on any reasonably fertile site. It can thrive in poor ground, even clays, and seems to prefer dry sandy soils. Although resistant to damping-off, powdery mildew, and other seedling diseases, it is susceptible to the common black-knot fungus6 and does not thrive in wet areas (areas receiving 300–1,800 mm are said to be best in Ecuador).

Apart from bearing fruit, this is a useful, fast-growing timber and reforestation species (because it produces in poor soils, cost of production is also lowered). A few years after planting, its wood is suitable for tool handles, posts, firewood, and charcoal. After 6–8 years it yields an excellent reddish lumber for guitars, furniture, coffins, and other premium products. The wood is hard, is resistant to insect and fungus damage, and sells at high prices.7 Young branches are supple and strong, like willow canes, and the prunings are often used to make baskets.

Capuli seems particularly suitable for agroforestry systems. Its deep roots help prevent erosion, and it may not dry the soil. It can be interplanted with field crops such as alfalfa, corn, and potatoes. It is a good plant for wind protection and it acts like a biological barrier—the birds enjoy its fruits so much they leave nearby crops alone.8

PROSPECTS

The Andes. Horticulturists in the Andes should investigate this species soon. Because of its fine woodworking and fuel qualities, trees are disappearing from some areas, with consequent loss of valuable


4 In the late 1980s, grafted trees are just coming into use in Ecuador. Information from B. Eraso and R. Castillo.
5 Information from P. Del Tredici.
6 Information from P. Del Tredici.
7 Information from R. Castillo.
8 Information from B. Eraso.


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