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Malabar Chestnut, or Saba Nut - The Provision Tree for your Garden (Pachira aquatica)

Amazing!  Highly Ornamental and Lucky!

The Malabar Chestnut is one of those very special trees.  Also named the Provision tree by the U.N, this tree can withstand the often harsh conditions in developing countries.  Native to an area from Southern Mexico to Guyana and northern Brazil, this tree is well suited to tropical and subtropical regions as well as mild inland and coastal areas. Although native to naturally wet areas, it is extremely adaptable and will grow very well in most conditions.

What does the Malabar Chestnut look like?b2ap3_thumbnail_starr-110307-2328-saba-nut-flower-malabar-chestnut.jpg

It is a stunning tree.  Foliage is shiny deep green, with lighter green new growth. Leaves are palmate, or finger-shaped.  It gives away its distant relative - the Boabob with a distinctive swollen trunk base.  This makes it very suitable as a bonsai or house plant, as well as a beautiful shade tree for parks, gardens and bush blocks.  The Malabar Chestnut grows up to 18m tall in its tropical native habitat, but in subtropical areas a maximum of 6-7m tall is more likely.

Flowers are quite showy, like a creamy yellow powder puff or shaving brush!  Being self- fertile, you can expect a seed pod to form following each flower.  The seed pod is very woody, 5-7 cm in diameter.

b2ap3_thumbnail_starr-070830-8240-saba-nut-pods.jpgMalabar Chestnuts

How to grow the Malabar Chestnut

Pachira aquatica / glabra is
a very adaptable tree. It is native to tropical, moist conditions, but is very drought hardy once is has established itself. It is also resistant to disease and flood. It is best suited to frost free areas in full sun to part shade. When the tree is young, it benefits from being adjusted to full sun gradually to avoid sunburn to its foliage.

Although it performs best in mild climates, it will handle brief periods of cold weather. Make sure you mulch well (keeping mulch away from the trunk at least 10cm to avoid rot) and plant in fertile, well draining soil for best growth results.b2ap3_thumbnail_starr-080117-2047-saba-nut-braided-trunk.jpg

This tree is also grown as an indoor or pot plant. Trunks can be braided for an extra ornamental effect. (Photo on the right)


The Malabar chestnut has been eaten as a nutritious nut by many cultures for years.   However, recent research has shown that the Malabar Chestnut nuts contain cyclopropenoid fatty acids and the nuts are therefore not suitable for human consumption.  Still widely promoted as edible, it is best to be on the safe side and enjoy them for their intrinsic beauty rather than a food.

The Lucky Tree

The Malabar chestnut is highly popular in Asia as an ornamental and symbolically associated with good luck and prosperity.  They can be seen in homes and businesses decorated with auspicious symbols. 

Feng Shui elements are reflected in the number of leaves signifying Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth.

Beauty, good fortune and prosperity!

Available now at Lush Plants Online Nursery!

Other common names of the Malabar Chestnut:

Malabar Chestnut, Saba Nut, Provision Tree, Guiana Chestnut, Guyana Chestnut, Monguba, Munguba, Mamorana, Pumpo, Money Tree, patchira aquatica, patchira glabra.

Related species: patchira insignis

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