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Mexican Calabash, Gourd Tree
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This small curious tree has flowers and large cannonball-like fruits that occur directly on its branches and trunk (cauliflorous). The 2½ inch bell-shaped flowers are tinted yellow with a trace of purple and open for a single night and then fall the following day. In the wild, pollinating bats are attracted by the flower's musky scent. Flowering occurs from May until November. The resulting 5 inch round, hard fruits are green, turn yellow as they ripen, and eventually fall from the tree. The round dry shells from the fruit are cut into bowls and often made into musical rattles known as maracas. To produce odd shapes for birdhouses, etc., string is sometimes tied around the fruit as it grows. When the hard fruit is broken open, seeds are exposed that are edible and high in protein with a sweet licorice-like taste. With age, the young seedlings will develop normal leaves that are trifoliolate with a leaflike winged petiole shaped like a cross.
It grows to 25 feet in height, is semi-deciduous, drought tolerant, and has a spreading low canopy and open, branching growth habit. It can be used as a unique large bonsai specimen in the landscape and is well suited for patio planters and container growing. Epiphytes love to grow on its corky bark. It does need a frost free growing environment. Native to southern Mexico and Central America south to Costa Rica. USDA zones 9b - 11.
Keyed Cultural Guide:
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(F) Flourescent lights for
indoor light culture
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