Babaco, Mountain Papaya (Carica pentagona)

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Babaco, scientifically known as Carica pentagona, is an intriguing and exotic fruiting plant native to the high-altitude regions of Ecuador and Colombia in South America. This unique species belongs to the Caricaceae family, which also includes its close relative, the papaya. Babaco is celebrated for its striking appearance, delicious fruit, and ease of cultivation, making it a sought-after addition to gardens and orchards worldwide.

Plant Characteristics:

Growth Habit: Babaco is a small to medium-sized perennial shrub or tree that typically reaches a height of 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters). Its slender, upright stem is adorned with large, palmate leaves.

Leaves: The leaves of the babaco plant are a notable feature, with deeply lobed, palm-like structures that can grow up to 18 inches (45 cm) in width. They are lush green in color, adding to the plant's overall aesthetic appeal.

Fruit: The primary attraction of the babaco plant is its unique, elongated fruit. Babaco fruits are cylindrical in shape, resembling a slender papaya but with a pale, lemon-yellow to light green coloration. They can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length and weigh between 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kg). The fruit has a smooth skin with a waxy texture and is known for its sweet-tart flavor, reminiscent of a blend between pineapple and papaya.

Babacos are self-fertile and – strikingly – bear fruit along their trunk


Climate: Babaco thrives in temperate to subtropical climates, ideally between 55°F to 80°F (13°C to 27°C). It is sensitive to frost and cannot tolerate extreme cold.

Soil: Well-draining, loamy soil enriched with organic matter is ideal for babaco. Maintaining a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH (6.0 to 7.0) is recommended.

Sunlight: Babaco plants prefer full to partial sunlight, with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day for optimal growth and fruit production.

Harvest and Usage:

Juicy, slightly-acidic and sweet, when fully ripe, it resembles a strawberry-pineapple-citrus flavor. Bright yellow when ripe, the seedless fruit bears flesh that is traditionally skinned, chopped, and enjoyed heated, with sugar and cinnamon.  The antioxidant rich Babaco is full of vitamins A, C, and E and can add a nutritious boost to anything from juices and smoothies to a tropical dessert.

Babaco fruits are typically harvested when they reach a mature size and start to change color from green to pale yellow. The fruit should yield slightly to gentle pressure when ripe. The fruit can be enjoyed fresh, either sliced and eaten as a snack or added to fruit salads for a tropical twist. Babaco is also used to make jams, jellies, and refreshing beverages.  The plant's leaves are sometimes used in traditional herbal medicine for their purported digestive and anti-inflammatory properties.

Gardening Tips:

Regular pruning helps maintain the plant's shape and encourages healthy fruit production. Adequate moisture is essential for babaco, but it's important to avoid waterlogged soil, as it can lead to root rot.  Mulching around the base of the plant helps conserve soil moisture and control weeds.

Babaco is a captivating addition to gardens, not only for its ornamental value but also for the delectable fruit it produces. With proper care and attention to its specific needs, this South American treasure can thrive and reward gardeners with a taste of the exotic.

Plant Type:
Tropical/Subtropical Evergreen Fruit Tree

Harvest Season:

Mature Size:
6-12 ft. 

Soil & Moisture:
Grows best in sandy, well-draining soil. They love water but hate water logged roots, so make sure to plant your Papaya trees in soil with good drainage. Drought tolerant once established.

Light Requirements:
Full Sun


Growth Rate:
Very Fast!

Zone Hardiness:
Outdoors 9-11 (frost protection until established); Patio/Greenhouse 4+

Our Red Lady Papaya trees are grown from seed and are capable to produce fruit in less than a year.

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