Stinky Wild Balsam Apple

Tara McTaggart (Class of 2012) recently texted me about a plant, which she had correctly identified as wild balsam apple (Momordica charantia) and is pictured above.

This plant also is known as “stink vine”. Invariably, in removal attempts, the alternate, deeply-lobed palmate leaves are crushed and release an unpleasant, distinctive “stink”. This fast-growing vine climbs by tendrils …
This vine flowers in sun or semi-shade …
When the fruit is beginning to form, you easily can understand why this plant is a member of the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae) …
Mature fruits are bright orange and warty …
!momordica-chrantia-fruit copy
Inside are multiple seeds covered with red arils …
!Momordica charantia - fruits & arils copy
The fruits split open into 3 parts, unless cardinals or other birds peck them open to get first dibs at eating these arils. Spread by birds and other animals, wild balsam apple often climbs over wild coffee (Psychotria sp.) and other plants at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area …
In 1993, the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council added wild balsam apple to its list of invasive pest plants, because it is a “bane to land managers in restoration areas”. Right after the hard Christmas freeze of 1989, wild balsam apple seemed to be everywhere in Indian River County, especially in native plant restoration plots on spoil islands, but, with the passage of time, this short-lived vine seems to be less problematic, unlike more vigorous vines like air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera).

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