Fruits

Guiana Chestnut (Pachira Aquatica): All You Need To Know

The Guiana Chestnut, also known as the Saba Nut, Money Tree or Pachira Aquatica, is a tropical wetland tree native to Central and South America.

The Guiana Chestnut is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 9-18 meters tall, with smooth greenish-gray bark and swollen trunks at the base. It has digitately compound leaves that fan out in groups of 5 to 9 leaflets. Its large, white, fragrant flowers bloom on long flower cluster stalks at branch ends and open at night, dropping by the middle of the next day.

The fruit of the Saba nut tree is a smooth green pod that splits open naturally to reveal 10 to 25 irregularly rounded brown seeds about 2.5 cm in diameter. In Brazil it is a popular cultivated fruit tree and elsewhere it is grown as an ornamental plant.

The Guiana Chestnut is a tropical and subtropical evergreen tree that belongs to the genus Latania, in the subfamily Bombacoideae of the family Malvaceae. It was previously a part of the Bombacaceae family.

The name “Money Tree” is derived from an ancient folktale, where a poor man prays for money, finds this “odd” plant, brings it home and makes money selling plants grown from its seeds.

Cultivation

Guiana Chestnut is a tropical to sub-tropical species that grows up to 1000m and thrives in warm temperatures of 24°C and with 1000-2000mm of rainfall per year. It prefers bright light, but can also tolerate partial shade and temperatures ranging from 12°C to 25°C. Its leaves may yellow and fall off during autumn days when the sunlight decreases, but it will regrow its leaves in the spring without problem.

A Guiana Chestnut tree becomes mature when it is 4-5 years old and produces its first fruit in spring and fall. It can withstand temperatures as low as 5°C without losing its leaves, though it’s recommended not to grow it below 12°C as an orangery tree, with the ideal culture temperature being about 20°C year round with high humidity. Although a weak frost may cause it to lose its leaves, they will regrow in the following spring.

Young plants need basic care such as water, fertilization and protection from intense sun exposure. When mature, they prefer full sun but can tolerate some shade. Traditionally Guiana Chestnuts have been grown as low-management backyard trees producing multiple crops throughout the year without input from humans; however yields can be improved through regular fertilization and watering during dry periods.

The main technique for propagating a Guiana Chestnut is by seed germination which is quite easy; however cuttings or root cuttings can also be used. Seeds are recalcitrant but if sown freshly germination occurs within two weeks at almost 100%. Seedling growth after this point is slow though, taking 3-5 years before reaching 2-3m in height.

Propagation

The Guiana Chestnut can be propagated via stem cuttings taken in the early spring. Look for semi-wooded stems that are at least 20cm long near the top of each branch; use clean secateurs to remove the top end of the stem just above a node. Peel off the lower leaves and place the bottom half of the stem in water to promote root development.

Once three inches of root growth has been achieved, move the rooted stem into a potting mix that is moist, well-draining and contains some perlite. A ‘Houseplant’ labelled soil is preferred, but general-purpose compost mixed with sand and perlite works too.

Wrap the potted plant and its pot in a transparent bag to restore moisture lost from having no roots. Put it in an area with bright indirect sunlight and maintain continually moist soil – this will encourage root development. Three weeks later when there’s established foliar growth, remove the bag and begin caring for it. With regular pruning, warm temperatures, moist soil, drainage and lots of light, your new Guiana Chestnut should thrive.

Fruit Production and Harvesting

The Guiana chestnut tree takes 4-5 years to produce fruit when planted from seedlings, but cutting-grown plants can bear fruit in half this time. Trees may crop continuously in tropical conditions, or just once a year in cooler climates. Each individual fruit takes 4-5 months to mature and yield will continue to increase over several years.

For the best flavor, it is best to harvest the fruit when it ripens and dehisces from the tree. This means collecting the seeds from the ground before they have had a chance to germinate. Regularly inspecting the tree and picking fruits before they open to release their seeds is recommended. The seeds can then be stored for several months in a dry environment.

Common Issues with Pachira

It is important to take note of common issues with Guiana Chestnut, such as root rot, spider mites, too low humidity, transplant shock, curled leaves/brown edges, distorted growth and lower leaf loss.

Properly caring for the plant will help prevent these issues from occurring and ensure that it thrives in its new environment.

To address these issues if they do occur, make sure to give the plant a good soak before repotting and inspect the roots for signs of rot.

Increase humidity around the plant and provide it with indirect sunlight until it is acclimatized to direct sunlight.

Water regularly but not excessively, and use a chopstick to gently break up soil occasionally to add oxygen back into the soil.

If any issue persists despite trying these methods, contact a professional or simply get rid of the pest/issue by replacing the entire specimen.

Fruit Uses

Its seeds can be eaten raw or roasted, though studies have shown it contains anti-nutritional factors which must first be degraded through roasting in order to make the seed easier to digest and enjoy. Roasting also adds an extra layer of flavor and allows the tough seedcoat to be removed more easily. The Guiana chestnut has been eaten throughout history as a snack and is a nutritious addition to any diet.

FAQ

Is Guiana chestnut a money tree?

Yes, the Guiana chestnut is sometimes referred to as a money tree. The name “Money Tree” is derived from an ancient folktale, where a poor man prays for money, finds this “odd” plant, brings it home, and makes money selling plants grown from its seeds.

Is Guiana chestnut edible?

Yes, the seeds of the Guiana chestnut are edible. The seeds can be eaten raw or roasted, though studies have shown it contains anti-nutritional factors which must first be degraded through roasting in order to make the seed easier to digest and enjoy.

How long does it take for a Guiana chestnut to produce fruit?

It takes 4-5 years for a Guiana chestnut tree planted from seedlings to produce fruit, but cutting-grown plants can bear fruit in half this time. Each individual fruit takes 4-5 months to mature and yield will continue to increase over several years.

How tall does Guiana chestnut grow?

The Guiana chestnut can grow up to 9-18 meters tall in its native environment, but it is usually kept much smaller in cultivation. It can be pruned to maintain a desired size and shape.

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