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Eugenia foetida (the boxleaf stopper or Spanish stopper) is a small evergreen tree that typically grows
to about 6 m in height. It has smooth gray (sometimes mottled) bark and a straight trunk. It bears mildly
fragrant small, white flowers with many white threadlike stamens from mid-summer to early autumn
followed by black to dark brown fruits that are popular with birds (Elias 1980; Nelson 1994). This is the
dominant shrub on some of the Florida Keys (Elias 1980) and according to Little et al. (1974), is one of
the commonest and most widespread members of the family Myrtaceae (a major tropical plant family)
in the Greater Antilles.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
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The leathery and aromatic leaves vary greatly in shape and size (Little et al. 1974), but are mostly 2 to 4
cm in length, are opposite, simple, entire, and elliptic to obovate in shape (Nelson 1994). The upper leaf
surface is dark green, the lower surface pale green with tiny blackish glandular dots (Little et al. 1974;
Nelson 1994). Flowers are small and white, mildly fragrant, with many white threadlike stamens. The
fruit is a rounded berry, 4 to 8 mm in diameter, which turns from reddish orange to black or brown at
maturity (Nelson 1994; Liogier and Liogier 1994).
Holotype for Eugenia mayana Standl.
Catalog Number: US 571749
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): G. F. Gaumer
Year Collected: 1895
Locality: Izamal., Yucatán, Mexico, North America
In Florida, the few
Eugenia species occurring there (none north of central Florida) are among the small
number of south Florida trees with opposite, evergreen leaves (Nelson 1994). There are just four native
Eugenia in south Florida: E. foetida and E. axillaris (both common and widespread), E. rhombea (only in
the Florida Keys), and
E. confusa (only in extreme southern Florida) (Petrides 1988; Gann et al. 2008).
Eugenia foetida is the only Eugenia in Florida with a rounded (blunt) rather than tapered leaf apex
(Petrides 1988; Nelson 1994). According to Nelson (1994),
E. foetida can be distinguished from the long-
stalked stopper (
Mosiera longipes) by the fact that M. longipes (which is listed as Threatened in the
state of Florida) has leaves mostly shorter than 2 cm.
Eugenia rhombea has a yellow leaf edge and a
E. axillaris produces a skunky odor around the plant; and E. uniflora has edible orange-
red fruits, in contrast to the dark fruits of
E. foetida and E. axillaris (E. confusa has red fruits) (Petrides
Eugenia foetida is common in moist and dry limestone forests from sea
level to 300 feet altitude on the southwestern coast and foothills of Puerto Rico. It occurs in hammocks
(evergreen broadleaf forests) of southern Florida, primarily from Collier and Palm Beach Counties
southward and throughout the Keys, but extending northward along the east coast at least to Brevard
County; it is also found in pinelands of the lower Keys (Nelson 1994). For southern Floida, Gann et al.
E. foetida from coastal berm, coastal strand, maritime hammock, rockland hammock, and
shell mound habitats.
Cuban cactus scrub flora associations
The Cuban Cactus Scrub ecoregion is a semi-arid region lying in the rainshadow of upwind mountains
of the Caribbean Basin; the vegetation of this ecoregion is chiefly a thorny cactus scrub. The most
characteristic and abundant flora species correspond to the xeromorphous coastal and subcoastal
scrubland with abundant cacti succulents, also called coastal manigua. Associate evergreen shrubs and
B. cubana. Cactus associate species include: Opuntia dillenii, O. triacantha, Harrisia eriophora, H. taetra,
Dendrocereus nudiflorus and Pilosocereus robinii.
Systematics and taxonomy
Austin (2004) offers several possible origins for the somewhat cryptic common name "stopper" for
plants in the genus
Eugenia: (1) The plants can grow in dense thickets near the coasts, "stopping" a
person's passage. (2) The fruits are loaded with tannins and can be used as a remedy for diarrhea,
"stopping" the problem. (3) Most implausibly (as Austin acknowledges),
Eugenia species can be so
difficult to tell apart that they "stop" anyone trying to identify them. Although the true origin of the
common name "stopper" may remain a mystery, this is not the case for the name
Eugenia. The genus
Eugenia was created by Linnaeus in 1753 to honor Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), who made a
collection of rare plants in his palace garden near Vienna in the early 1700s (Austin 2004).
National nature serve conservation status
Rounded National Status Rank
Rounded National Status Rank:
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Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
4. C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Cactus. Topic ed. Arthur Dawson. Ed.-in-chief Cutler J.Cleveland.
Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
some rights reserved