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Updated: Feb 24, 2022

Cnidoscolus aconitifolius

Plant family: Euphorbiaceae

Incorporating Chaya in the Garden Ecosystem

Chaya, often referred to as "tree spinach" or "chicasquil," is a fast-growing perennial shrub with a long history of use in Mexico and Central America. Its a beautiful plant that does well with pruning and can make an attractive hedge in the summertime. The plant likes growing as an understory plant, and does well in dappled shade. We've also noticed that its abundant white flowers attract hummingbirds. Chaya is also easy to propagate from cuttings, but be careful with the milky sap the plant exudes, as it can irritate the skin. There are several varieties of chaya, but the type we have is the Estrella type or Cnidoscolus aconitifolius.

In Texas, it will die down to the ground in cold weather, but we hear it will likely come back from the roots if well established. This is our first year leaving our big chaya tree outside (it grew through the pot and put deep roots into the ground), so we'll report back once we have personal experience.

Working with Chaya

Chaya's star-shaped leaves are a nutrient-rich food source that can be eaten a lot like spinach or chard. However, they must be cooked for at least five minutes first due to the presence of hydrocyanic glycosides. So far we've just been enjoying the plant in our landscaping so can't speak from personal experience yet about cooking with chaya. We'll keep this post updated though as we learn more.


These statements are for educational purposes only. They have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult a licensed health care professional before consuming a new plant -- especially if you are pregnant or have pre-existing medical conditions.

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