In 1810, Thomas Jefferson noted the sowing of this annual vine in Monticello's flower borders along with Larkspur, Poppies, and Nutmeg Plant.[1] Bernard McMahon listed this species as "tender annual flowers" in The American Gardener's Calendar, an important reference manual that Jefferson owned and often consulted.[2] The Balsam Apple is a tropical vine grown as a garden annual with bright yellow flowers followed by curious, oblong, yellow-orange warty fruits that burst open when ripe, and has attractive, glossy green foliage. It is native to the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Although the pale yellow, deeply-veined flowers have a subtle beauty, its round, somewhat warty, bright-orange fruits, or "apples", are its most distinguishing feature. When ripe, the fruits burst apart, revealing numerous seeds covered with a brilliant scarlet, extremely sticky coating. The Balsam Apple was introduced into Europe by 1568 and was used medicinally to treat wounds.[3]

Visit Monticello’s Online Shop to check for seeds or plants of Balsam Apple.

Typical Blooming Dates: Late July - Late October
Growth Type: Annual
Color(s): Yellow
Hardiness Zones: 1-10
Location at Monticello: West Lawn
Planting Conditions: Partial Shade

References

  1. Betts, Garden Book, 423. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  2. ^ Bernard McMahon, The American Gardener's Calendar (Philadelphia: B. Graves, 1806), 609-10.
  3. ^ Lawrence D. Griffith, Flowers and Herbs of Early America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008), 28.