|Murtilla, Ugni molinae|
| Ugni molinae|
Ugni molinae (syn. Myrtus ugni, Eugenia ugni) is a shrub native to Chile and adjacent regions of southern Argentina. The Mapuche Native American name is "Uñi", and Spanish names include "Murta" and "Murtilla" ("little myrtle"); and the "Ugni" is also sometimes known as "Chilean guava" (it is related to the Guava, though not closely so; and really is more like a small cranberry).
The Ugni is a shrub from 30 cm to 170 cm tall with evergreen foliage. In some exceptional cases the shrub can grow up to 3 m in height. The leaves are opposite, oval, 1-2 cm long and 1-1.5 cm broad, entire, glossy dark green, with a spicy scent if crushed. The flowers are drooping, 1 cm diameter with four or five white or pale pink petals and numerous short stamens; the fruit is a small red, white or purple berry 1 cm diameter. In its natural habitat; the Valdivian temperate rain forests the fruit matures in autumn from March to May.
It was first described by Juan Ignacio Molina (hence its name) in 1782. It was introduced to England in 1844 by the botanist and plant collector William Lobb, where it became a favorite fruit of Queen Victoria. It is also grown as an ornamental plant.
The fruit ("Ugniberry") is cultivated to a small extent. The usage of the fruit in cuisine is limited to southern Chile where it grows. It is used to make the traditional liqueur Murtado that is made of aguardiente and sugar flavoured by conserving murtas inside the bottle. It is also used to make jam and the Murta con membrillo dessert and in Kuchens. The Ugniberry is known as "New Zealand cranberry" in New Zealand and marketed as the "Tazziberry" in Australia, but it is not a native plant to these countries.
Eugenia ugni - (Molina.)Hook.f.
Myrtus ugni - Molina.
- USDA Zone 8
- Well drained soils
- Self fertile
- Fruit is edible
- Leaves can be used in tea making
- Roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute