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The Mexican Calabash, one of its many names, is a small handsome tree reaching 25 feet or more. It has a rough bark and typically hosts epiphytes. The canopy is open exposing the wide-spreading upright branches.
Furthermore the dark green leaves are narrow and tapering, up to 8 inches long, with a winged (alata means winged) petiole, borne on the branch alternately or clustered. Also, flowers borne directly on the trunk and branches (cauliflory) are bell-shaped, solitary on a short stalk and to 2 1/2 inches long; the color varies from a yellowish-green to maroon or tan. Flowers are night blooming and bat pollinated.
Fruits are round or oval, 4-5 inches in diameter, smooth, green to purple, becoming yellowish-green at maturity when they fall. They have a very hard shell, containing an edible pulp, and seeds with a licorice-like taste. Seeds are used for propagation. Dried, the shell is durable and can be used as a bowl. This calabash is hardy and can be grown on a range of soil types providing they are well-drained. Beetles are a potential pest.
Finally, the tree is grown as a specimen for its unusual fruits and is suitable for container growth, in parks, along streets and for shade. However, it is a somewhat messy tree during flowering and fruit drop.