The California bay is a very tall tree (20-30 m) which is renowned for its many medicinal, nutritional and artisanal properties.
A fruit bush native to South America, the oak leaf papaya is primarily planted for its sweet and fruity-flavoured flesh. It is easy to mistake it for a fig tree, the difference being that it can grow at very high altitudes.
|Common name||Oak leaf papaya|
|Binominal name||Vasconcellea quercifolia A.St.-Hil.|
|Synonyms||Carica quercifolia (A. St.-Hil.) Hieron.|
|Area of origin||Andean region (Bolivia, Ecuador ...)|
It was named Vasconcellea in honour of Vasconcellos, a Jesuit who lived in Brazil in the seventeenth century. Quercifolia means with leaves similar to oak leaves, in Latin.
Description and flowering period
This tall shrub can reach 10 meters in height. Its foliage is deciduous and composed of ovoid to elliptical, lobed leaves. The shrub bears fruit as soon as the third year. The fruit is ovoid, elongated and between 4 and 10cm long. It is first veined with green and later orange. It has an orange flesh and many small seeds. The fruit’s flesh is juicy, fragrant and sweet tasting with a pleasant spicy after-taste.
It requires a well-drained soil in a sunny location sheltered from strong winds. It is intolerant to prolonged drought as well as excessive humidity. It can withstand frosts down to -3°C.
Food & drink
The fruit can be eaten raw (once ripe but not over-ripe) or cooked.
Its Brazilian name: “higuera del monte” means “mountain fig tree” due to its resemblance with a fig tree and the fact that it grows at altitudes of up to 2700 meters in its natural range.
Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN
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