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What is Crescentia?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Crescentia is a genus of trees in the Bignoniaceae family. These fruit-bearing flowering plants are local to the forests of the West Indies, southern North America, and South America. There are six noted species of these tropical plants. Common names for the Crescentia genus are kelabash, huingo, and the calabash tree.

Species in this genus achieve a height of approximately 20 to 40 feet (6 to 12 m). They bear either large globular fruits or elongated ones that are light green when unripe and turn yellow when mature. A hard exterior encases the soft, fleshy insides of these fruits, which bear a mass of seeds in their centers. The flowers of these evergreen plants are cone-shaped and have petals with yellow or light green tips and purple bases.

Crescentia cujete is one of the more well-known varieties, especially in South America. Local tribes make use of the fruits’ hard shells by turning the empty husks into bowls, cups, and musical instruments such as maracas. The boiled pulp of the fruit is utilized as an herbal remedy for respiratory problems, diarrhea, and urethritis. Broth from the leaves is often consumed to soothe some of the symptoms of hypertension as well. It is possible to distinguish this tree by its large, spherical green fruit that grows all year round.

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Another species of kelabas commonly found in Mexico is the winged calabash, or Mexican calabash. Like most members of the Bignoniaceae family, flowers that grow directly on its trunk and branches are trumpet-like with light green petals. A unique characteristic of this species is its seeds’ germinating habits. The development of the seeds can start only when the fruit is pried open; otherwise, they become useless for cultivation.

These fruit trees can also be used in gardens for ornamental functions. Epiphytes such as ferns, orchids, and cacti that cling and dwell on tree trunks and branches can be attached to plants of the Crescentia genus to serve as garden accents. Multi-divided leaves that remain abundant throughout the year on these plants provide shade for surrounding plants that need only partial sunlight. The white, yellow, and green flowers can also add color to the surroundings.

Most gourds from these trees can be eaten raw or cooked. Their flesh has a mild, sweet taste that is typically served stir-fried or as a soup. Dried calabash fruits can also serve as an alternative pipe for smoking tobacco.

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