This species is a native of the Malayan Archipelago, whence it has been introduced into other tropical regions. It is now the most important eugenia in the Hawaiian flora. Vaughan MacCaughey 1 says of it: "This beautiful tree was introduced by the primitive Ha-waiians and is now abundant in the humid valleys and ravines on all the islands. It is distinctly a tree of the lower forest zone, where it forms pure stands, some of which, on the broad valley floors, cover areas of several hundred acres."
The tree sometimes reaches 60 feet in height. The leaves are elliptic-oblong to oblong-obovate, acute, 6 or 7 inches in length, thick, glossy, and dark green in color. To quote again MacCaughey: "The flowers are showy clusters of long, spreading, bright red stamens, that contrast charmingly with the rich foliage. During the flowering season, in early summer, the shady interior of the tree seems to be filled with a delicate scarlet haze." The fruits are oval to obovate in form, 2 to 3 inches long, and white to crimson in color. The skin is thin, the flesh crisp, "apple-like," white, and juicy, with refreshing subacid flavor. In Hawaii this species is often called mountain-apple. In the Orient it is known as Malay-apple, and in French, jamelac. In the British West Indies, where it was introduced from Tahiti in 1793, it is often termed Otaheite-apple. According to W. Harris, it is now common in the wet warm districts of Jamaica. Botanically it is sometimes listed as Jambosa malaccensis, DC, and also as Caryophyllus malaccensis, Stokes.
Fig. 41. The ohia (Eugenia malaccensis), a Malayan fruit little known in the American tropics. The tree is handsome, but the fruit is not of very good quality. (X about 1/3)
1 Torreya, Dec, 1916.
The fruit is not especially esteemed. It is somewhat pithy in texture and its flavor is not rich. Alice R. Thompson finds it to contain: Total solids 8.61 per cent, ash 0.13, acids .06, protein 0.21, total sugars 6.88, fat 0.03, and fiber 0.56.
The ohia is tropical in its requirements and cannot be grown in regions subject to frost. So far as is known, it has never been brought to fruiting age either in California or Florida. It is probable, however, that few attempts have been made to grow it in either state, and that it might succeed in the extreme southern part of Florida. In Ceylon it is said by H. F. Mac-millan to thrive at elevations up to 2000 feet. It is grown successfully at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It is propagated by seed, and also, according to Thomas Firminger, by layers. It cannot be recommended, however, for extensive cultivation as a fruit-producing tree. As an ornamental plant for the tropics it is distinctly valuable. In Hawaii a variety with white flowers and fruits is found.