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The Common Calabash Tree (Crescentia cujete) has been cultivated widely throughout the New World tropics since prehistoric times; its exact native range is uncertain. It is a small tree with light green bell-shaped flowers (5 to 6.5 cm long) that are borne singly on stout stalks on the trunk and branches. The flowers are bat-pollinated and are produced irregularly throughout the year. The large fruit (technically a type of berry to botanists, specifically a "pepo") has a thin hard shell and whitish pulp and does not split open. The many seeds are dark brown, thin, and flat. The very young fruits are soft. (Little and Wadsworth 1964; Elias and Prance 1978)

A few long spreading branches form a broad open crown. There are enlarged nodes on the stout light brown or gray twigs. The very large, hard, nearly round (sometimes oval) green to brown fruits, 10 to 30 cm in diameter, resemble gourds (but are not in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae). The spoon-shaped leaves (5 to 18 cm long and 2 to 5 cm broad) are arranged in clusters along the stout twigs. The Common Calabash Tree reaches a height of 6 to 9 m or more with a trunk diameter of 30 cm or more. It may be evergreen or deciduous in areas with dry seasons. (Little and Wadsworth 1964)

Like some other fruits of species in the family Bignoniaceae, the fruits of this species possess nectar-producing nectaries. In some other species in this family, these nectaries have been shown to attract ants that drive away animals that feed on the plants (in at least one case, pollinators are attracted to these extrafloral nectaries); although the nectaries on soft young fruits of C. cujete do attract ants, no protective function has yet been demonstrated for this species. (Elias and Prance 1978 and references therein)

This species is now widely grown throughout the tropics of both the Old World and New World for its fruits, which are used to make bowls, cups, jugs, water containers, and other utensils, as well as (often decorated) ornaments and musical instruments. It is also grown as an ornamental. Blocks of calabash bark and wood, as well as the trees themselves, have been used for growing orchids. The pulp of the fruit is poisonous and has been used in some areas for traditional medical treatments. Reportedly, the seeds are sometimes cooked and eaten. These trees are commonly encountered on hillside pastures, along roadsides, and wherever they are planted by humans, occurring especially in drier areas. They are easily propagated from seeds or cuttings, but grow slowly. Cultivated varieties may produce larger fruits than do wild trees. Tying and training the growing fruits can reportedly produce a range of shapes. (Little and Wadsworth 1964)

Several other Crescentia species are found in the West Indies, Mexico and Central America, or Amazonia and the upper Orinoco (Elias and Prance 1978).


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