Chaya Tree Spinach - Perennial Vegetable in Florida

The Latin name of chaya is Cnidoscolus chayamansa and it's also known colloquially as Mexican Tree Spinach. Leaves vaguely resemble maple.

Some greens, like amaranth and Ethiopian kale, can handle some of the heat of summer: chaya thrives in it. This plant originated in the tropics and simply can't stand freezing.

Chaya produces greens like crazy. It's considered to be one of the most productive leaf crops in cultivation.

Chaya, like its cousin cassava, is slightly toxic raw. Chaya is a perennial leaf vegetable in Florida, in the same family as cassava. It’s Latin name is Cnidoscolus chayamansa and it is also known colloquially as Mexican tree spinach. Like cassava, leaves are toxic raw because they contains cyanogenic glucosides. From David Goodman: "All you need to know about that is that the plant needs cooking before you eat it. For some reason people freak out about the fact that this plant is poisonous raw. I mean, do you eat raw chicken? Raw kidney beans?"

Fired up a pot full of water and throw in a fistful of freshly cut greens. Boiled chaya greens taste sweet.

The best place to find chaya is to ask around for cuttings. Chaya is propagated via cuttings in the ground. In six months chaya plants grow to about 4' tall and may have leaves for the table.

As a part of the landscaping, chaya is an attractive tropical-looking plant that would fit into almost any garden plan.

Chaya might be the most perfect green vegetable to grow in a subtropical environment. Easy to propagate, and requires no care. Nutritious, and easy to prepare. Video by TheFloridaPrepper:

Edible trees and bushes in Florida: moringa, katuk and chaya. They are very easy to grow. Video:

Chaya has at least 2 strains:

1. Estrella, with large leaves, almost never flowers. Leaves look like Canadian maple leaf.
2. Picuda, deeply lobated leaves, with profuse small white flowers.

More info here:


Chaya, Spinach Tree, Chay, Kikilchay - University of Hawaii pdf
Hawaii Growers Toolbox - University of Hawaii
Chaya Is a Tasty Perennial Vegetable - Organic Gardening - MOTHER EARTH NEWS
David's website at
Grow Chaya for Years of Free Greens
Varieties of Chaya - The Survival Gardener

Related reading:

An Introduction to Chaya - HEART Village - Sustainability Training in Central Florida

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