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Momordica balsamina - Balsam Apple

Balsam Apple

Common Name: Balsam Apple

Scientific Name: Momordica balsamina

In 1810, Thomas Jefferson planted seeds of this annual vine in his flower borders at Monticello along with Larkspur, Poppies, and Nutmeg Plant.1 Bernard McMahon listed this species as "tender annual flowers" in The American Gardener's Caldendar, 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

- Text from Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet

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