Family : Bignoniaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico ( Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Federal District, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Yucatán), where it grows in the secondary forests, deciduous as well as evergreen, up to about 1000 m of altitude.
The genus is honoured to the French agronomist and pharmacist Antoine Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813); the specific name is the Latin adjective “aculeatus, a, um” = equipped with thorns, thorny, with obvious reference.
Common names: candle tree, cat, cow okra, cucimber tree, snake okra (English); bananinha, guajilote(Brazil); cuajilote, palo de velas (Costa Rica); aji de Cabaiguán (Cuba); fruto de cera (Ecuador); camburito (Guatemala); chayote, chucho, cuajilote, guachilote, huajilote, palo de jilote, pepino cat, pepino kat, pepino de árbol, pepino de monte (Mexico); camburito (Venezuela).
The Parmentiera aculeata (Kunth) Seem. (1854) is a shrub or a small tree evergreen or semi-deciduous much ramified, 7-10 m tall, with erect trunk, up to about 30 cm of diameter, with the bark of pale brown colour slightly fissured; the young branches are provided of couples of curved thorns on the nodes.
The leaves, on a 2,5-5,5 cm long winged petiole, are opposite, sub-opposite or fasciculate, usually trifoliate, with elliptic to obovate leaflets with obtuse or pointed apex and entire margin, 2-7 cm long and 1,5-3 cm broad, the terminal being bigger than the lateral ones, of glossy intense green colour. Solitary hermaphroditic flowers or fasciculated directly on the trunk or the main branches (cauliflory), odourless, with tubular calyx laterally open, about 3 cm long, of green colour, campanulate corolla, 5-7 cm long, of greenish white colour at times run by some purple brown line, with 5 curved lobes with wavy margins slightly unequal and 5 stamina, one of which sterile.
The fruit is a fleshy berry, fibrous, greenish yellow, of almost cylindrical shape with longitudinally prominent ribs and pointed apex, slightly curved, 8-18 cm long and of 3-5 cm of diameter, containing numerous roundish flat seeds of about 3 mm of diameter.
It reproduces easily by seed in draining loam maintained humid at the temperature of 24-26 °C, with germination times of 1-5 weeks and first blooming after 3-5 years.
Species suitable to the tropical and subtropical climate zones, preferably with high annual rainfall, requires an exposition in full sun and is not particular about the soil, provided well drained; when adult it can resist to temperatures close to the 0 °C, if exceptional and of short duration. Utilized at times as shade or as ornamental tree and in the family orchards due to its fruits, produced almost continuously, used in the animal alimentation and, in a lesser extent, in the human one, with fairly sweet taste, consumed either raw or boiled. Young plants can be cultivated in pot to be sheltered in protected ambient, particularly luminous, where the climate does not allow the permanence in open air during the winter months, with lowest night temperatures preferably not under the 15 °C. The waterings must be regular and abundant during the vegetative period, more reduced in winter, but without ever allowing the substratum to dry up completely.
All parts of the plant are utilized since remore times in the traditional medicine for various pathologies.
Synonyms: Crescentia edulis Desv. (1814); Parmentiera edulis DC. (1838); Crescentia aculeata Kunth (1818); Crescentia musicarpa Zaldivar ex C.Heller (1853); Parmentiera foliolosa Miers (1868); Parmentiera lanceolata Miers (1868); Crescentia edulis Sessé & Moc. (1889).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza