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ANACARDIUM occidentale

Image of Anacardium occidentale

Family

Anacardiaceae

Botanical Name

ANACARDIUM occidentale

Plant Common Name

Acajou, Cashew

General Description

This small, broad-crowned, evergreen tree is cultivated throughout the tropics for its tasty fruits, as well as for numerous other by-products. It is native to lower latitudes of the New World.

Large, leathery, elliptical leaves crowd the crooked, gray-barked branches of this fast-growing tree. The leaves are ribbed with conspicuous, deep-set veins, and are often notched at the tip. Many-flowered clusters of pale green, red-tinged, five-lobed blooms appear at the branch tips from late spring to early summer. Individual blooms are male, female, or bisexual, with all types typically occurring in each flower cluster. Female flowers develop into brown, hard-shelled, kidney-shaped fruits, each housing a tender pale-fleshed kernel (the "cashew nut"). The shell contains a toxic oil that burns and irritates skin. As the fruit ripens, the petiole (flower stem) swells to the size and shape of a medium to large apple. This "cashew apple" is a also prized edible in many parts of the tropics.

Anacardium occidentale yields many valuable by-products including cashew shell oil (utilized in preservatives and lubricants) and cashawa gum (a thickener and adhesive). Its insect-resistant wood is used in furniture and crates.

This tropical native requires year-round warmth, and does poorly in regions where temperatures drop below 7º C (48º F). Cashew thrives in full sun and moist, well-drained, acidic to alkaline soil. It grows best in areas with mild rainy summers and relatively dry winters. Plants are propagated by seed or grafting.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 5

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H2

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    20'-35' / 6.1m - 10.7m

  • Width

    20'-35' / 6.1m - 10.7m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Mexico, Central America, South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Green, Yellow Green, Light Green

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Edible, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No