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CNIDOSCOLUS aconitifolius

Image of Cnidoscolus aconitifolius

Carol Cloud Bailey

Family

Euphorbiaceae

Botanical Name

CNIDOSCOLUS aconitifolius

Plant Common Name

Chaya

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

A vegetable popular in the tropical Americas, chaya sometimes known as tree spinach is considered by some experts as one of the most nutritious of the leafy greens. It originates from the Yucatan and is now naturalized in warm areas of the Americas. Fast growing, of easy culture and underutilized, this green must be boiled for one to five minutes before eating, the leaves are poisonous when raw.

Classified in the same family as poinsettia and croton, chaya is a tender perennial which forms a large shrub or small tree. The large dark green leaves are smooth sometimes with a few stiff hairs on the surface and deeply lobed like the palm of a hand. They are held on long petioles (leaf stalks) and alternate each other on the stems. The stems exude milky sap when cut and bear stinging hairs at the tips. White small flowers are produced throughout the year in frost-free locations. They are held in clusters on long stems well above the foliage. The fruit is a hard nutlike capsule. Propagation is usually by cuttings.

Chaya is a good source of protein, vitamins (A and C), minerals (calcium, iron and phosphorus), niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. It is very productive after established and fifty percent of the foliage can be removed at any one harvesting. As a perennial vegetable, choose the planting location with care. Chaya prefers pull sun, well-drained soil and regular applications of water. The plant is drought tolerant but more productive if irrigated when dry. It has few pests and requires modest amounts of fertilizer. Use gloves when harvesting leaves to protect hands from stinging hairs.

Beautiful as an ornamental and useful in the kitchen, chaya is a great addition to frost-free veggie gardens and landscapes. Where not hardy it is lovely in large containers or tubs.

Characteristics

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 12

  • Plant Type

    Tender Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    6'-15' / 1.8m - 4.6m

  • Width

    6'-15' / 1.8m - 4.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Central America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Feature Plant, Hedges, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    No