Some volunteers call this plant pumpkin vine (Momordica charantia) for obvious reasons. Balsam apple and balsam pear are other names for this weedy vine that was added to Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council invasive plant list in 2013. It is listed as a Category 2 plant, “Invasive exotics that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities”. Deb Farley (Class of 2015) asked about this vine when I saw her awhile back at one of my favorite haunts, Petsmart.
After the “twin” 2004 hurricanes damaged the hammock canopy, wild balsam apple was rampant at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area and is pictured below that year clambering over shiny-leaved wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) and soft-leaved wild coffee (Psychotria sulzneri) …
Re-growth of the canopy has shaded out much of short-lived perennial in the hammock, but much of it likely remains in the seedbank waiting.
A member of the cucumber/squash (Cucurbitaceae) family, this plant has attractive yellow flowers prior to the peculiar “pumpkins”
Inside of the orange warty fruit are lots of seeds encased in a red aril. Cardinals have been seen pecking at unopened but ripe fruit to get at the prize inside.
Left to their own devices, the fruits split open into 3 parts to reveal their bird-attracting meal.
The seeds are poisonous to humans and dogs, though the red aril can be consumed carefully. Birds and other small mammals likely spread this plant.
Its deeply lobed leaves are distinctive in shape and the foul smell of crushed leaves is unmistakeable.
Call it pumpkin vine, wild balsam apple, or balsam pear & do your best to discourage it in your yard and our natural areas.
At last one I can easily recognize. Starting very soon I will reluctantly pull it out whenever I see it. The leaf is so lovely! Felicity Rask (class 2015).
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