At a first glance, it looks like there’s something terribly wrong with this tree – but this really isn’t the case. What we’re seeing here is the Jabuticaba – or the Brazilian grape tree – and those are actually its fruits, which are really tasty.
Jabuticaba grows (as the name says it) mostly in Brazil, but also in Argentina, Chile and Peru. The tree is a slow-growing evergreen with fruits available throughout the entire year; you can eat the fruits raw or make jam from them. Several potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory anti-cancer compounds have been isolated from the fruit, including one that is unique to the fruit is jaboticabin.
The flowers themselves appear on the tree at most twice a year – naturally. The eerie white fuzz looks even stranger than the fruits:
The fruits are initially green, and only turn to this darkish color when they are ripe. But why did it evolve this way?
The answer is probably pretty simple – it evolved this way to make it easier for animals who can’t climb to eat the fruits. The tree “wants” the animals to eat its fruits, so that they can later expel the seeds away from the parent tree to grow even more Jabuticabas.
As for the name, it’s also pretty interesting. Jabuti is the Tupi word for tortoise, with caba meaning place, so Jabuticaba means something like tortoise place. It was likely called this way because the Brazilian giant tortoise enjoys eating fruits which fall to the ground or are very close to the ground.
You can also grow this tree in your own garden if you live in a tropical or subtropical climate; it prefers acidic soils and lots of water. All in all, the Jabuticaba is not only a remarkable tree but also a very tasty one – for humans and tortoises alike.