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Publication #ENH375

Crescentia cujete: Calabash Tree1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

Calabash is an evergreen tree reaching 20 to 30 feet in height with a broad, irregular crown composed of long, spreading branches clothed in 2- to 6-inch-long bright green leaves, which create moderate shade beneath the tree. Calabash is most outstanding in the landscape for its year-round production of flowers and fruit, both of which are unusual. The 2-inch-wide flowers are yellow/green with red or purple veins, cup-shaped, and appear to emerge directly from the branches. These are followed by the emergence of the large, round fruit, 5 to 12 inches in diameter, with a smooth, hard shell, which hang directly beneath the branches. Fruits are poisonous.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Crescentia cujete: Calabash Tree.


Credit:

Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Crescentia cujete
Pronunciation: kress-EN-tee-uh koo-JEE-tee
Common name(s): Calabash tree
Family: Bignoniaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: specimen; deck or patio; street without sidewalk; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn 3–4 feet wide; highway median
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 20 to 30 feet
Spread: 25 to 30 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: spreading, round
Crown density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: obovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches, 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: yellow, green
Flower characteristics: showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: round, oval
Fruit length: 3 to 6 inches
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: green
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: unknown
Current year twig thickness: medium, thick
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: none

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Calabash tree should be grown in full sun on any well-drained soil.

The main limbs on calabash originate close to the ground forming a low-branched tree without training or pruning. These limbs branch infrequently, forming a heavy, awkward-looking canopy. This is suitable for planting in an open area where there is plenty of space. Prune the tips of the branches regularly when the tree is young to develop more secondary branches close to the trunk. This will help increase the diameter of the main branches and thicken the canopy. The trunk can be trained straight by staking, and lateral branches directed to grow upright.

Propagation is by seed.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern but occasionally bothered by Chinese rose beetles and a leaf-webbing caterpillar.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH375, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed June 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.