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Crescentia cujete - L.

Common Name Calabash Tree
Family Bignoniaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The pulp of the fruit is poisonous[ 302 ]. The seeds are poisonous[ 307 ].(Seed is poisonous if ingested Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling Pollen may cause allergic reaction N/A )
Habitats Coastal scrub, dry lowlands in clearings[ 307 ]. Roadsides, old pastures, thickets and woodland margins at elevations from sea level to 420 metres in Jamaica[ 426 ].
Range Tropical America - Colombia north through Central America to Mexico and most of the Caribbean
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Crescentia cujete Calabash Tree

Crescentia cujete Calabash Tree


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Native to Central and South America, Crescentia cujete or commonly known as Calabash Tree is a small or medium-sized flowering tree about 10 meters in height. It is the national tree of St. Lucia. Its leaves are simple and alternate, its bole is thick, and its crown is dense and round. The flowers are round and bell-shaped. The fruit is used to make containers, cups, etc. Young fruit is occasionally pickled but the pulp is poisonous. The seeds are poisonous as well if consumed raw. Cooked seeds are used to make a beverage. The leaves are cooked and used in soups. Further, calabash tree has a wide range of medicinal uses. The fruit is used in the treatment of colds, diarrhoea, pneumonia, and intestinal irregularities. It is also used for relief from menstrual pains and to ease childbirth and procure an abortion. The leaves, on the other hand, can be used in the treatment of dysentery, colds, lung diseases, toothache, wounds, and headache. The bark is used to clean wounds. The wood is used for tool handles, ox yokes, vehicle parts, and sometimes in construction. It is also used for fuel.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Crescentia cujete is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bats.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid, very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Coffee  Condiment  Drink  Oil

The young fruit is occasionally pickled[ 301 , 307 ]. Considered the equal of pickled walnuts[ 46 ]. The seed can be eaten when cooked[ 46 ]. It is also used to make a beverage[ 307 ]. A syrup and a popular confection called 'carabobo' is made from the seed[ 301 ]. To make the syrup, the seeds are ground finely, mixed with sugar and a little water then boiled[ 301 ]. The roasted seeds, combined with roasted wheat, are used as an aromatic and flavourful coffee substitute[ 301 ]. The leaves are sometimes cooked in soups[ 301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Antidiarrhoeal  Astringent  Cholagogue  Diuretic  Dysentery  Emetic  Emmenagogue  
Emollient  Expectorant  Laxative  Odontalgic  Purgative  Vermifuge

The pulp (of the fruit?[ K ]) is astringent, emollient, expectorant and laxative[ 46 ]. It is used in domestic medicines[ 46 ]. The fruit is abortifacient, emetic, emmenagogue, purgative and vermifuge[ 348 ]. A syrup made from the pulp of the fruit is a popular remedy for colds[ 331 ]. The juice of the fruit is used to treat diarrhoea, pneumonia and intestinal irregularity. It is made into a strong tea and drunk to procure an abortion, to ease childbirth, and is used in a mix to relieve severe menstrual pains by eliminating blood clots[ 348 ]. A syrup made from the fruit is used to treat consumption[ 348 ]. The leaves are cholagogue, emetic (in larger doses), and purgative[ 348 ]. An infusion is sometimes administered for treating dysentery[ 331 ]. It is boiled with sugar, soft grease or Buckley's white rub to make a syrup that is used to treat colds[ 348 ]. Juice of young leaves is drunk to remedy colds and lung diseases[ 348 ]. The leaf is chewed to treat toothache[ 348 ] The leaves are used as a wash to cleanse dirty wounds[ 348 ]. The whole plant is used as a diuretic against hydropsy and diarrhoea[ 348 ]. The ripe fruit-pulp contains crescentic, tartaric, citric, tannic, chlorogenic and hydrocyanic acids, and may cause abortion in cattle[ 348 ]. The seed oil contains oleic acid[ 348 ]. The stem-bark and leaf show antimicrobial activity[ 348 ]

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Containers  Fuel  Oil  Plant support  Wood

Specimen, Curiosity, Support for epiphytes, Botanic collection, Latge conservatory, Xerophytic. Other Uses The plant produces subglobose hard-shelled fruits about 15 - 30cm long[ 302 ]. Local people constrict the growth of these fruits by tying strings around them and, by so doing, fashion them into a variety of shapes. These can then be used as rattles, bowls, cups, containers etc, in much the same way as bottle gourds are used[ 302 , 331 ]. The most general use of the shells is for making drinking vessels, but the larger ones serve to store all sorts of articles[ 331 ]. Sections of the oblong forms are much used in place of spoons[ 331 ]. Many of the jicaras, as the cups made from the shells are called, are handsomely decorated in colours or by incised designs[ 331 ]. The hard, smooth shells polish well and are finely carved for ritual use in some parts of Africa[ 307 ]. The wood is light brown or yellowish brown, with fine veining of darker colour, without distinctive taste or odour; moderately hard and heavy, tough and strong, coarse-textured, fairly easy to work, takes a smooth finish; but is probably not durable[ 331 ]. It is used for ox yokes, tool handles, and vehicle parts[ 331 ] and is sometimes used in construction[ 302 ]. Thick crooked limbs often are used in Guatemala for making saddle trees[ 331 ]. The wood has been used from Colonial times to the present to make stirrups - some of those of the colonial period are beautifully carved and are real objects of art[ 331 ]. The wood is easy to carve when still green but when thoroughly seasoned is 'like iron' and some have perhaps been in use for 'hundreds' of years[ 331 ]. The wood is also used for fuel[ 307 ].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  New Crop  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

A plant of the lowland tropics. Prefers a fertile, moist soil in a sunny position[ 302 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[ 307 ]. Plants do not flower until they are quite large[ 200 ], then they can flower all year round[ 307 ]. The flowers emit a pungent, musky, cabbage scent in the evenings[ 307 ]. The large fruits have nectaries that are believed to attract stinging ants. These ants then ward off herbivores such as goats[ 307 ]. The trees seem to afford a particularly good habitat for epiphytes, and in the wild they often are covered with orchids, bromeliads, and other plants[ 307 , 331 ]. Blocks of the wood, used for mounting epiphytic plants, are sold commercially[ 307 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • New Crop  Most new crops were important wild plants until recently, although some are the result of hybridization. They have been developed in the last few, decades. What they have in common is that they are currently cultivated by farmers. Examples include baobab, argan, and buffalo gourd.
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed. Air-layering. Cuttings.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Crescentia cujete or commonly known as Calabash Tree. Also known as Calabacero (Spain), CuitŽ (Brazil) Totumo (Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru), Tutumo (Bolivia), Taparo (Venezuela), Mate (Ecuador), Huinga (Peru), Pate (Peru), Cuyabra (Colombia), J’caro (Mexico), Morro (Guatemala), GŸira (Cuba), Cujete (Spain, Philippines), Miracle Fruit (Philippines), Kalbas (Dominica and St. Lucia), Higuera (Puerto Rico) and Rum tree (Sri Lanka). other names: Berenuk, Calabazo, Gasu, Jicara, Kalebasboom, Khoria, La'amia, Majpahit, Nam-dtao-ton, Pohon buah berenuk, Pohon majapahit, Qua dao tien, Tabu kayu, Totumo, Xicalli.

Africa, Antigua and Barbuda, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cayman Islands, Central America, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guiana, Guianas, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, North Africa, North America, Pacific, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, SE Asia, Solomon Islands, South America, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname, Thailand, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands, West Africa, West Indies.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Crescentia alataJicaro. Mexican calabashTree8.0 9-12 MLMHNDM223

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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