The small nondescript gumi flowers appear in mid-Spring and would be easy to overlook were it not for the pleasant fragrance they produce. Click to download a large version (800x600) for a better look.
By late spring and early summer the fragrant flowers have matured into ripe gumi fruit that bends the branches under this load of tastiness. Click to download a large version (800x600) of this image.
Gumi is a rounded shrub that grows to 8 ft (2.4 m) in height. The deciduous leaves are egg-shaped, 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long, dark green on top and silver with tiny brown scales beneath. Young twigs are reddish and fuzzy. The cream-colored flowers are small and modest, but abundant and fragrant. The showy fruits are scarlet with silver flecks. About 1 in (2.5 cm) long, they dangle deliciously on 1 in (2.5 cm) stems.
Gumi is native to China and Japan and has been cultivated for centuries as an ornamental and for its tasty fruit.
Culture Light: Full sun for best results. Moisture: Drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-9. Propagation: Difficult to propagate. Seeds may take two or more years to germinate, and the seedlings may not be identical to their parent. Propagation by cuttings takes skill and patience but will produce plants identical to their parents. Gumi is fast growing and, with the help of symbiotic root inhabiting bacteria (like legumes), it obtains its own nitrogen, thus requiring little fertilizer. Gumi is drought tolerant, can live in salty or alkaline soils, and rarely has insect or disease problems.
Unfortunately, gumi is largely unknown to Americans. In the edible landscape, fast growing gumi shrubs can be pruned to form a dense hedge. As individual specimens or in small groups, gumi's silvery leaves sparkle and flash in the breeze. The succulent fruits are extremely showy and attract many kinds of birds. Gumi could (and should) be cultivated on a commercial scale, like blueberries or mayhaws.
A mature gumi shrub produces loads of fruit enough for 2 adults and the neighborhood population of birds.
The red ripe fruits of gumi are juicy and sweet, but at the same time, pleasantly astringent. They pucker your mouth, but you keep coming back for more! An absolutely scrumptious jelly can be made from the juice.
A gumi bush loaded with ripening fruit has been known to foster quarrelsome and prolonged disputes among mockingbirds, kingbirds, cardinals, blue jays and orioles. The only effective arbiter is bird-proof netting.