Pachira glabra
(Bombacaceae)
 

Common Names 

English: French peanut, Guinea peanut, money tree, lucky tree 

Spanish: maní francés, árbol de dinero, árbol de la suerte 

Portuguese (Brazil): castanha-do-maranhão, castanha-da-praia, cacau-do-maranhão, mamorana, amendoim-de-árvore, cacau selvagem  

 

Origin and Distribution 

Native to Brazil.  Sporadically grown throughout the tropics and subtropics, and used as a house plant in temperate regions.

 

Botanical Synonyms 

Bombax glabrum and Bombacopsis glabra.  Bombax glabra is also used, but is not a valid name.

 

Description

Medium sized tree, reaching from 30-60 feet (9-18 m) tall. The trunk is smooth and greenish gray, and often swollen at the base. The alternate leaves are 6-11 inches (15-28 cm) in length and compound, with 5-9 leaflets. The large and showy flowers are perfect and terminal, with a long peduncle. The petals and numerous stamens are white. The fruit is a smooth, green capsule, 4-8 inches (10-20 cm) in length, and
splits opens naturally on longitudinal sutures when ripe. The seeds are rounded but irregular, with about 10-25 per fruit. They are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, with a light brown testa. 

 

Pachira glabra

Propagation and Culture

Propagated from seed, cuttings or airlayers. The seeds germinate quickly and are fast growing. Pachira glabra is tropical, growing naturally along rivers and other bodies of water. It is very adaptable to different soil types, grows well in full sun or partial shade, and is resistant to both drought and flooding. Trees begin to fruit at about 4-5 years, a
mature tree producing from 50-80 fruits per year. In Puerto Rico, flowering and fruiting occur throughout the year, but principally from June to November.

 

Cultivars and Related Species

There are no named cultivars of Pachira glabra.

The genus Pachira has 24 species, three of which have edible seeds: Pachira glabra, P. aquatica and P. insignis. Pachira aquatica (Guiana chestnut, Malabar chestnut, provision tree, or sabanut) has white, cream, or greenish petals, with stamens that are basally white or yellow, and reddish apically. The fruit is dark brown and tomentose, about 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) long.  Seeds are angular and large, about 1.5-2 inches (4-5 cm) long. Pachira insignis has thick orange or dark brown petals with whitish or orange red stamens and a dark brown, rounded fruit.

Pachira aquatica

Uses

The seeds are delicious raw, boiled, fried or roasted.  The flavor is similar to peanut. Roasted seeds can also be ground to make a hot drink similar to hot chocolate. Young leaves and flowers are also edible.  The seeds contain 16% protein and 40-50% fat.

The attractive trees are easily grown in pots, and are cultured in bonsai form as “lucky trees” or “money trees”.

The bark is used to treat stomach problems and headaches, and is taken to “fortify the blood”.

 

More information on edible Pachira species 

Castanha-do-maranhão
A Brazilian article on Pachira glabra (in Portuguese).

 

Pachira aquatica

Photos of flowers and fruits of Pachira aquatica by the Missouri Botanical Garden (click on the "Images" box).

 

Pachira insignis

Photos of flowers of Pachira insignis by the Missouri Botanical Garden (click on the "Images" box).

 

 

 

   

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