Pachira aquatica

Bryant is the author of today’s entry. He writes:

Thank you to 3point141@Flickr for this striking image of Pachira aquatica. Like all members of its former family, the Bombacaceae, Pachira aquatica was recently re-assigned to the Malvaceae, which currently consists of roughly 240 genera. Pachira aquatica‘s native range extends from southern Mexico to northern South America.

Though it is not shown in this photograph, plants have palmate leaves divided into 5-11 leaflets. The flower in this photograph, though, does show the many stamens. Here, I estimate somewhere near two hundred stamens (some members of the genus are reported to have a thousand stamens). You may note the stamens are organized into ten clusters–these are called staminal tubes.

Pachira aquatica is now commonly cultivated outside its native range, both as an ornamental and for its seed, an edible nut said to taste similar to a peanut. Due to its variety of uses, it has accrued a number of common names including: malabar chestnut, money tree, Guiana chestnut, and provision tree. In Chinese culture, Pachira aquatica is widely considered a good luck charm that brings good fortune, making it a common gift for many occasions. In temperate climates, plants are often grown indoors as foliage plants or as “bonsai” with braided trunks. Pachira aquatica is now a significant economic crop in Taiwan, where plants are exported as saplings to markets around the world.

I have passed by this plant countless times in corner stores without a second glance, having never seen them in flower. I was blown away to see what they produce!

Pachira aquatica

12 responses to “Pachira aquatica”

  1. Wendy Cutler

    I was very excited about these trees last time I was in Florida, at the Fruit and Spice Park, and at Fairchild Botanical Garden. Bryant, where have you passed them countless times in corner stores? In Vancouver?

  2. Nadia

    I think everybody who comes to this site would be excited to see that plant. I never even heard about it! thank you for education.

  3. Richard

    Saw a pair growing in Los Angeles as a small tree, its strikingly different than the houseplant I’ve usually seen. Really fantastic flowers.

  4. Eric Hunt

    Wendy – here is the version of this species most people are familiar with:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrskupe/3535730753/
    Here is a photo of the fruit on a full-grown tree, taken on a visit to the Garden of Eden Botanical Garden on Maui:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericinsf/4282937038/
    I still haven’t seen the flowers in person!

  5. Lani Avocet

    What an amazing outer spacey flower! Can you make the house plant version flower? Thanks for this wonderful site! I love it every day.

  6. Melissa in South Carolina

    They’re like fireworks! Beautiful photo. A good luck gift in China? I am liking that, too.

  7. Ian

    Gotta say something. A while back I opened this can of worms and hoped that Daniel could close it convincingly. I thought he did. I was mislabeling my white flowered trees as Pachira aquatica and now know to call them Bombax glabra or Pachira glabra. On my farm the flower in the photo above produces a spectacular pod over a foot long with maybe two dozen “nuts” inside that are really delicious. The essentially identical flower on another tree in a different location in PR, at Jardines Eneida in Cabo Rojo, produces huge “nuts” (seeds) all compressed into odd shapes by pressure within the pod that are inedible, quite unpleasant. The pods of these two trees look quite similar. Brown, dusty appearance, over a foot long and slightly fluted. One of these may be the elusive Pachira insignis??? Pachira glabra is much smaller, has a white flower with similar construction and a heavenly fragrance. And then, there is the one with the red flowers… drives one ‘nuts.’

  8. Jessica

    Wow. Fabulous flower!
    In looking a little further on the internet, there seems to be some confusion about whether the plant, usually with a braided trunk or with a cute caudex, is Pachira insignis or Pachira aquatica. Maybe someone can clarify?
    It seems almost every grocery store or Asian market around here – New York City – has these for sale and most of the Chinese or Japanese restaurants have at least one near the check-in counter. They are very pretty plants, but I had no idea they had such a fantastic flower.
    I love this site!
    😀
    Jess

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    i live on the other coast of florida sun coast as they call us
    just aways up from selby gardens in sarasota
    money trees grow very nicely here
    if you click on ian’s name you will be taken to his farm in pr
    what a lovely farm you have ian
    thank you as always daniel and company

  10. Lina Droz-Grey

    C’est magnifique !
    Merci à La terre !
    Merci à Bryant et à vous Daniel, avec mes cordiales salutations.

  11. Daniel Mosquin

    Ian, yes, but I think this is consistent with the conclusions from this posting.
    Roughly:
    Pachira aquatica: light-coloured petals, stamens white to yellow at base with red tips
    Pachira glabra: light-coloured petals, white stamens
    Pachira insignis: dark-orange or brown petals, whitish or orange-red stamens
    As for those braided plants being sold as Pachira aquatica, I’m going to have to take a serious look at them next time I see them in the store. I’ve found references to them being any of the above three species.

  12. Joy Klein

    Good morning! What a beautiful way to start my mornings looking at all the gorgeous plants on this site. My son invited me to take a look at this site and it is so amazing; it brought me back to my days as a 4H club member and searching out trees and plants for my projects. I love plants and now live in an area of Colorado that I can only grow more desert type plants so this is a breath of fresh air seeing all the exotic plants that grow all over the world. Love the comments too!!

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