The money tree is called such because folklore tells us a very poor man once became rich from collecting and selling the seeds of Pachira aquatica. Other traditions claim that the tree is meant to bring good luck when placed inside the home. Not only is Pachira aquatica cultivated for its edible seeds in Mexico and California, but it has also become very popular in tropical landscapes, and is an easily maintained indoor plant.
Native to Mexico and Northern South America, this tree is now naturalised in many tropical/subtropical locations. It has a sprawling evergreen canopy, reaching heights of 60 feet, and amazingly huge fragrant flowers. Blooming for only one day, with the fragrance being stronger at night to attract pollinators, these flowers resemble the shape of a shaving brush, featuring long creamy white petals filled with hundreds of bright red stamens.
Money tree can thrive in many different conditions including full sun, part shade, and in some instances even full shade. In their native habitat, they grow in freshwater swamps, estuaries, river banks and tropical rainforests, hence the specific epithet “aquatica,” meaning to grow in or around water. They don’t mind having wet feet unlike most plants, and are a great specimen tree for a rain or water-wise garden. Although they are tolerant of many conditions, high wind and exposure are not included, therefore this tree should be planted in a protected area away from wind exposure.
Contrary to what usually comes to mind in terms of tropical fruit, the fruit of Pachira aquatica is harvested only for its edible brown seeds. The seeds mature inside of the fruit which acts as a seed pod, and fall to the ground breaking open when they are ripe. They are most commonly roasted and taste similar to chestnuts. As with all other edible plant material, it is very important to research the correct processes for preparing and consuming prior to tasting.
Here in Camana Bay, the money tree can be found in the courtyard between 89 Nexus Way and, very appropriately, Cayman National Bank.