Native to tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, the Balsam Apple Vine (aka Mormodica Charantia) has escaped cultivation, spreading through Texas to Florida. Some see it as a weedy curse 🙄 but I see it as a delicate, pretty addition to my vine wall 🙂
M. Charantia really comes into its own in October! The 5-7 lobed, palmate leaves grow from slender stems that quickly reach lengths of 12-18ft. Tiny, round yellow flower buds appear almost immediately:
M. Charantia is a member of the cucumber family, and as such is monoecious, meaning it produces male and female flowers on the same vine. Male flowers produce the pollen that bees and other insects carry to the female flowers.
If fertilization occurs, the female flowers produce orange pointy gourds that look like this:
What happens next is so interesting! When the gourds mature, they split into three irregular parts that curl backwards to reveal bright scarlet arils containing next year’s seeds..
To avoid invasive spread, it is best to remove the gourds before they open…or be really pro-active and pluck new vines out of the ground when you first discover them. Note: the Balsam Apple’s “seedling” leaves have a different appearance…start yanking as soon as these emerge:
One last caution: this is NOT an edible plant: the rind and seeds are toxic, causing severe gastric disturbance if ingested!
Until next time….
🙂 🙂 🙂