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tihn pet farang (ตีนเป็ดผรั่ง)

Thai. ‘Foreign duck-feet’. Name for a small tree, that grows up to 8 meters tall and originally comes from Central America, where it is usually found in open area and flatlands. It is a member of the trumpet-flower family Bignoniaceae and is known by the botanical name Crescentia alata. It has a variety of common names, including Winged Calabash, Mexican Calabash, and Morrito. In Thailand, it is often seen as an ornamental or shade tree in gardens and public parks, where it stands out, due to its open, spreading growth habit and its large, drop- (fig.) or cannonball-shaped, calabash-like fruits, that can grow to a diameter of around ten centimeters, yellow-green to golden-brown in colour, and with a shell so hard it is tough to open, a necessary requirement for the seeds inside to germinate. Hence, unless it breaks open upon hitting a hard surface when falling from the branch, or opened by human intervention, the seeds cannot disperse. The ‒often slanted and twisted‒ trunk has a dark brown to gray bark, with deep fissures, and some leaves, fruits, purplish flowers and buts (fig.), sprout directly from it. The tree has bright green leaves, that grow to about 12 centimeters long and have three leaflets. They are oblong or lance-shaped and attach to the main stem, some even directly on the trunk (fig.), by means of a winged petiole, which gives the tree the second part of its botanical name, i.e. alata, which means ‘winged’. Hence, they appear somewhat cross-shaped, a feature that fascinated the early European conquistadores, who took the unusual appearance of the cross-shaped foliage as a sign that a higher power approved of their efforts to conquer the Americas. The tree tolerates both dry and moist conditions and prefers sites where it receives lots of sun. The pulp from the fruit is used in herbal medicine as a laxative and to treat bronchitis, and in Mexico the dried fruits are made into bowls and musical instruments.