Pachira glabra (Bombacaceae)
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.
Bombax glabrum and Bombacopsis glabra. Bombax glabra is also
used, but is not a valid name.
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.
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.
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”.