Southern balsam pear

Momordica balsamina

''Momordica balsamina'' is a tendril-bearing annual vine native to the tropical regions of Africa, introduced and invasive in Asia, Australia, and Central America. It has pale yellow, deeply veined flowers and round, somewhat warty, bright orange fruits, or "apples". 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. In 1810, Thomas Jefferson planted this vine in his flower borders at Monticello along with larkspur, poppies, and nutmeg.

The outer rind and the seeds of the fruit are poisonous.
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''Momordica balsamina'' and the related ''Momordica charantia'' share some common names: African cucumber, balsam apple, and balsam pear. Other names for ''M. balsamina'' are balsamina or southern balsam pear. It is known in Africa under a broad range of names, e.g. in Mozambique as ''cacana'' and in South Africa as ''nkaka''.


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SpeciesM. balsamina