An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Parmentiera aculeata

Parmentiera aculeata

The Cow Okra (Parmentiera aculeata (Kunth) Seem., 1854) is an arboreal species belonging to the Bignoniaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to.
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta Superdivision,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Asteridae,
Order Scrophulariales,
Family Bignoniaceae,
Tribe Crescentieae,
Parmentiera species,
Genus P. aculeata.
The term is basionym:
– Crescentia aculeata Kunth.
The terms are synonymous:
– Crescentia edulis Desv.;
– Crescentia edulis Moc. ex DC.;
– Crescentia edulis Sessé & Moc.;
– Crescentia musaecarpa Zaldivar;
– Crescentia musaecarpa Zaldivar ex C.Heller, 1853;
– Crescentia musaecarpa Zaldivar ex F.Heller;
– Crescentia musicarpa Zaldivar;
– Crescentia musicarpa Zaldivar ex C.Heller;
– Parmentiera aculeata (Kunth) Seem.;
– Parmentiera adulis;
– Parmentiera edulis DC.;
– Parmentiera foliolosa Miers;
– Parmentiera lanceolata Miers.

Etymology –
The term Parmentiera was given in honor of the French agronomist and pharmacist Antoine Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813).
The specific epithet aculeata comes from the Latin aculeatus, a, um, that is, equipped with thorns, thorny, with obvious reference.
The common name cuajilote derives from the Nahuatl “cuahuitl”, tree, and “xilotl”, i.e. Jilote tree.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Parmentiera aculeata is a plant native to Mexico and northern Central America. This species is widely distributed in the tropical regions of Mexico, its natural range reaches El Salvador and Honduras; furthermore it has naturalized in some parts of Australia and is cultivated in other areas of tropical America and in the Old World.
In Mexico it is present in the states of Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Hidalgo, Nayarit, Colima, Michoacán, Edo. from Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, Veracruz, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas, Sinaloa.
Its habitat is that of deciduous and evergreen rainforest; xeric scrub, mountain cloud forest, oak and pine trees. It is found in warm, semi-warm, and temperate climates from sea level to 2,240 m above sea level. The average annual temperature where it develops best is 20 – 29 °C and with annual precipitation between 800 and 1,200 mm per year, in sedimentary to volcanic soil.

Description –
Parmentiera aculeata is an evergreen or facultative deciduous tree that grows up to 12 or 15 meters in height, with thick trunks and fissured bark, much branched from the base.
The main trunk reaches up to 30 cm in diameter at chest height, grooved at the base and with serrations along it, of a slightly marked yellowish brown colour, with curved thorns at the branch nodes. The twigs are slightly pubescent when young.
The leaves are borne by a winged petiole, 2.5-5.5 cm long; they are opposite, sub-opposite or fasciculate, usually trifoliate, with elliptical to obovate leaflets with obtuse or pointed apex and entire margin, 2-7 cm long and 1.5-3 cm wide; the terminal is slightly larger than the lateral ones, of a shiny intense green colour.
The flowers are solitary or fasciculate hermaphrodites; they grow directly on the trunk or main branches (caulifloria), odorless. The glass is tubular, open laterally, about 3 cm long, green in colour; the corolla is bell-shaped, 5-7 cm long, greenish white in color sometimes crossed by some purple-brown lines, with 5 curved lobes with slightly unequal wavy margins and 5 stamens, one of which is sterile.
The fruit is a fleshy and fibrous berry, elongated, up to 20 cm long and 6.5 cm in diameter, equipped with prominent ribs, yellowish green in color and fibrous inside. It contains numerous small seeds, about 3.5 mm in diameter and thin, similar to those of chilli peppers.

Cultivation –
Parmentiera aculeata is a tree that is often grown as a shade tree around homes in the tropics or for its sweet edible fruit.
It is grown especially in Mexico for its many uses.
For cultivation, keep in mind that it is a plant that can adapt both to the plains and to moderate altitudes in the tropics, which grows in areas with medium to high rainfall.
Species suitable for tropical and subtropical climate zones, preferably with high annual rainfall, requires exposure in full sun and is not particularly demanding regarding the soil, provided it is well drained; as an adult it can resist temperatures close to 0 °C, if exceptional and short-lived.
It is sometimes used as a shade and ornamental tree and in family gardens for its fruits, produced almost continuously, used in animal and, to a lesser extent, human nutrition, with a rather sweet flavour, eaten raw or boiled.
The young plants can be grown in pots to be sheltered in a protected, particularly bright environment, where the climate does not allow them to be outdoors in the winter months, with night-time minimum temperatures preferably not lower than 15 °C.
Watering must be regular and abundant during the vegetative period, more spaced in winter, but without allowing the substrate to dry out completely.
From a pedological point of view it prefers well-drained soil in a sunny position.
The plants do not flower until they are large enough and the trees, propagated agamically, can start fruiting when they are 3-5 years old.
The plants can flower all year round.
The plant reproduces easily by seed in a draining substrate kept humid at a temperature of 24-26 °C, with germination times of 1-5 weeks.

Customs and Traditions –
Parmentiera aculeata is a plant known by various local names, among these we remember: candle tree, cat, cow okra, cucumber tree, snake okra (English); bananinha, guajilote (Brazil); cuajilote, palo de velas (Costa Rica); ají de Cabaiguán (Cuba); fruit of wax (Ecuador); Camburito (Guatemala); chayote, chucho, cuajilote, guachilote, huajilote, palo de jilote, pepino cat, pepino kat, pepino de árbol, pepino de monte (Mexico); camburito (Venezuela).
The fruits of this plant are consumed, both raw and cooked; however its consumption is practically limited to the areas where cuajilote thrives, where it is also used as fodder.
It also has medicinal applications.
Both the fruit, bark and root are used by Mexican healers in the treatment of some kidney diseases, particularly kidney and bladder stones (Morales-Sánchez, 2015). Perez et al. (2000) report the presence of the guaianolide lactucin-8-methylacrylate obtained from the chloroform extract of dried fruit, as an active compound. Its fruit is rich in vitamin A but, as has been said, it is not very popular in the Mexican food market.
From a practical and ecological point of view it is a tree whose fruits are widely used as fodder for livestock, as shade for livestock, as firewood, as living fences, for human consumption, for medicinal use and for the production of various agricultural tools. It is therefore a species with multiple uses, from Veracruz to El Salvador and Guatemala. León and Poveda (2000) also report the plant as a forage and multiple-use species in the dry and subhumid forest area of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, probably as a pre-Hispanic introduction. Although it is a multiple use species, it is not a species that falls into any category of the SEMARNAT 059 2010 standard.

Preparation Method –
Parmentiera aculeata is a plant that finds uses in both the food and medicinal fields.
The fruits are consumed, both raw and cooked or preserved.
They have a fleshy pulp, very fibrous, with a sweet flavour; the flavor is said to resemble sugarcane.
In the medicinal field, all parts of the plant are used: roots, branches, leaves, bark, flowers and fruits.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Photo source:

Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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