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Accepted Scientific Name: Pachira aquatica Aubl.
Hist. Pl. Guiane 2: 726 (-729; tt. 291-292). 1775 [Jun-Dec 1775] Aubl.
Origin and Habitat: Pachira aquatica is native to southern Mexico to Guyana, northern Brazil and the western Amazon and also in the Greater Antilles and NW Africa.
Altitude range: From sea level to 1300 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: It grows on flooded riverbanks and swamps, and secondarily in lower montane cloud forest with average temperatures of 24°C and an annual precipitation between 1000 and 2000 mm. Normally found on tropical river flood plains on a range of fertile permeable soil types it can also stand sandy or clayey soils as long as drainage is adequate.
Pachira aquatica Aubl.
Hist. Pl. Guiane 2: 726 (-729; tt. 291-292). 1775 [Jun-Dec 1775]
- Pachira aquatica Aubl.
- Bombax aquaticum (Aubl.) K.Schum.
- Pachira aquatica var. manausensis A.Robyns
- Pachira aquatica var. occidentalis Cuatrec.
- Pachira aquatica var. surinamensis Decne.
- Pachira carolinea Dum.Cours.
- Pachira grandiflora Tussac
- Carolinea grandiflora (Tussac) Spach
- Pachira longifolia Hook.
- Pachira macrocarpa (Schltdl. & Cham.) Walp.
- Carolinea macrocarpa Schltdl. & Cham.
- Pachira pustulifera Pittier
- Pachira spruceana Decne.
- Pachira villosula Pittier
- Pachira villulosa Pittier
- Sophia carolina L.
Description: The Money Tree (Pachira aquatica) is a small to medium-sized forest tree 4-23 m high. The flowers are very large with long, narrow, pinkish petals and dozens of long stamens in a shaving-brush form. The large dark brown seeds known as Malabar chestnuts or Guiana chestnuts have a fleshy pulp and are delicious raw, boiled, fried or roasted. It is one the best and easy indoor plants and is used in the art of bonsai.
Trunk: Straight, with small buttresses, 25-90 cm in diameter with grey bark.
Leaves: Alternate, palmately compound and clustered towards the ends of the branches. Petioles up to 24 cm long with between three and nine leaflets, each elliptic-lanceolate, 5-28 cm long and 2.5-14.5 cm wide. Leaflets have a small point at the tip, and secondary veins are prominent. Margins entire without teeth, undulating and glabrous.
Flowers: Terminal, very large, bisexual, either solitary or 2 to 3 in a cluster, each is narrowly cylindrical in bud and large, showy and scented. Calyx tubular, greenish brown and 15-20 cm long. Petals 5 whitish-yellow or whitish-pink tubular-shaped up to 30 cm long, whitish in the lower half, crimson in the upper. Anthers 3-4 cm long and reddish. Ovaries five locular. Style thick up to 25 cm long. Fruit (capsule): Large, oblong-ellipsoidal 15-25 cm long 10-12 cm in diameter, fibrous dark brown with five grooves and a thick pericarp, with a weight of 1-1.5 kg and enclosing 10-25 seeds. The dehiscent fruit mature in 4-5 months and release its seeds at maturity.
Seeds: Dark brown, rounded, woody each 1.2-2 cm in diameter, with large and whitish cotyledons and have a fleshy pulp. This seeds are not at all like those of the other Pachira, all of which have cottony kapok on tiny seeds.
Phenology: Pachira aquatica has a juvenile period of from 3-4 years and then flowers and fruit are produced throughout the year.
Notes: The Money Tree (Pachira aquatica) are often found grown with 5 trunks that are braided together, these trunks along with the 5 leaflets in each palmately-compond leaf are symbolically associated with good luck and good financial fortune in reference to wuxing or "Five Phases" which means wood, fire, earth, metal and water in traditional Chinese cosmology. No, your money tree plant won't actually grow currency, but it is a good investment. Treat it well, and you'll enjoy this delightful tree for many years.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Jules Janick, Robert E. Paull “The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts” CABI, 2008
2) M.M. Grandtner “Elsevier's Dictionary of Trees: Volume 1: North America” Elsevier, 08/Apr/2005
3) Van Wyk, Ben-Erik “Food Plants of the World.” Portland, Oregon: Timber Press 2005
4) Forest & Kim Starr “Pachira aquatica (Guiana chestnut, Malabar chestnut)”. Plants of Hawaii. <http://www.starrenvironmental.com>. 23 Nov. 2014.
Cultivation and Propagation: Pachira aquatica is an excellent relatively fast-growing garden plant adapt to different tropical climates. It is also one of the most elegant indoor plants.
Soil: They prefers well draining, porous soils rich in humus. (but can even grow in soggy terrain). In containers use a peat moss-based potting mix with perlite or sand added for good drainage.
Repotting: Don't overpot. Use a smallish container because a too-big container will hold too much water. Soggy potting mix is often the biggest problem with this plant, causing stem and root rot and yellowing/dropping leaves. Growing money tree in a small container will also prevent it from getting too big.
Light: They do well in bright light, but no direct sun, but keep their green colour in full shade, if indoors place in a luminous position. Thrives also under fluorescent light. Seedlings like a more sheltered area.
Watering: In cultivation they appreciates abundant waterings. During the summer or warmer months, water frequently to keep the soil from drying out. Water thoroughly, until water comes out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, then allow the top 2.5-5 cm to dry out between waterings. Water less in winter. Avoid getting water on the trunk, which causes stem rot.
Humidity: Moderate to high. Try to keep the relative humidity at 50% or higher. Set the pot on a tray of wet pebbles to raise the humidity around it.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements or slow release fertilizer. Apply fertilizer 3 times a year, in spring, summer and fall... and if it is planted in full sun, fertilize more often.
Hardiness: It can be difficult to get it to look its best without a great amount of heat and sun and so it is only really suited to the tropics in frost-free regions (USDA Zones 11-12). Indoor it grows well at average room temperatures 16-24°C.
Maintenance: The tree grown in gardens and parks rarely needs pruning.
Diseases: Brown, crispy leaves is a symptom of dry air or low light levels. Plants often are in shock when moved to a new home because they are adjusting to a new environment. Keep your plant away from heat/vents and cold drafts from windows or doorways. Dropped leaves are also caused by relocation shock. If your new tree drops its leaves, don't give up on it. They'll grow back with good care. Place your money tree in a bright location and leave it there. Increasing humidity around the plant can help. While it's tempting to overwater a shedding plant, don't. It only makes the problem worse.
Food uses: The seeds of P. aquatica are delicious raw, boiled, fried or roasted. The flavour is similar to a European chestnut. Roasted seeds can also be ground to make a hot drink similar to hot chocolate but with a strong smell. The seeds are high in protein and edible oil. Harvest should be made daily picking the seeds from the previously cleaned ground under the canopy. The fruit is not eaten. Young leaves and flowers are also edible.
Garden uses: The 15-18 m tree is also grown as a hedge and used in bonsai as 'lucky trees' or 'money trees'.
Traditional uses: The bark is used for making ropes and getting a red dye. The wood is soft and can be used for paper pulp.
Medicinal uses: It is used to treat stomach problems and headaches and as a tonic.
Money Tree Bonsai: This tree can be grown as a bonsai. Regular pruning will also help control its size. Pinch or prune off growing tips. Its thin trunks are often braided by growers to add to its appeal.
Propagation Method: Seeds or stem tips. Take stem tip cuttings in spring, with at least 2 leaf nodes attached. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder then place it in moist potting mix. It can take several weeks to root.
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