Cojones de Toro

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Cojones de Toro, Thevetia ahouai

Family: Apocynaceae   

Also known as:, Huevos de Gato, Huevos de Perro, Huevos de Gato, Huevos de Chucho Cascabela, Cojón de Miko, Huevo de Tigre, Cojón de Gato, Las Bolas del Abuelo or Dog’s Tongue   

(Eureka!  With all the enthusiasm of Archimedes’ purported first exclamation of same, after ten years, I finally correctly identified this plant!  Now, remember, that I’m only a former Kansas kid who likes to “root in the dirt”.  I am not a university trained botanist.  I write about what I have experienced at a primary, first-hand base and then confirm through secondary research.  Accordingly, this is a superlative example of how this constitutes a rather protracted searchSo, forgive me if I now dare say – a bit smugly – that this is now one of the few books you will find that describe this most interesting character! )

Of the hundreds of plants flourishing in Ola Brisa Gardens, this one may, elicit the most stifled smiles and rib nudging.  However, even after a great deal of reading through my many resource books, no little internet research and discussion with other gardeners, I struggled with its identification.  It appeared to be – of our entire tropical plant collection – one of the most elusive with regards to having solid, substantiating and explanatory identification data/material.  I’d not be far afield in saying that it, for a long time, was a bit of a mystery plant!

One of my rather factually vague and, perhaps, least reliable (though well intended) tropical botanical book authors was one of two, in my entire library, from whom I found specific pictures and descriptions of the existence of this plant matching my flourishing specimen!  But, name-wise, I now know she, like many others, had it wrong.

As my search narrowed down, even among the purported professionals, there seemed to be a difference in opinion regarding which family this plant should be placed, with some asserting that it is Loganaiaceae, while others contended that it was Gentianaceae.  Finally, my sagacious young pal, Dr. Mark Earl Olson Zunica of the Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, came through with its proper identification.  I am eternally in his debt!

While we were discussing the Cojones de Toro and its relation – as off hand and casually as you and I might say “The sky is blue” – Mark observed, “Apocynaceae are easy to recognize because they have opposite leaves, milky latex, fruits divided into two follicles, radially symmetrical flowers, and the anthers are stuck to one another, forming a kind of hood over the stigma”.  (If I ever grow up I wanta’ be smart like him!”  He then went on to tell me its proper, specific name.  While not wishing to be indelicate, suffice it to say its various names may cause a blush or two.  Hence, my leaving them in Spanish!

The Thevetia ahouai is related to the Yellow Oleander (Thevetia peruviana) – included in Volume Two of this series.  All of these eight-member genus originate in the region ranging from Mexico to Paraguay.  (There are some botanists that assert seven of these are more appropriately placed in a separate genus, Cascabela.)  The Thevetia ahouai first came from the realm of Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela.

Kirsten Albrecht Llama succinctly describes this lush evergreen as a “five to ten foot (1.52 – 3.05 meters) shrub that likes moderate moisture . . fertile to well-drained soil . . .full to part sun, has flowers that are salverform (a slender, tubular corolla with the lobes spreading at right angles) and creamy white (mine are more yellow), having lobes strongly twisted with ruffled edges and seven inch (17.78 cm) long and two inch (5.28 cm) wide dark glossy green leathery leaves.”

As to its consumption, all parts of the plant are poisonous with the lethal seeds sometimes used to stupefy fish though, supposedly, its sap can be used to treat toothaches and skin sores!

My Cojones de Toro is a resident of a somewhat large pot and basks in direct sun almost the entirety of the day.  We have a problem, however.  The leaves of this plant are considered a delicacy to Mr. Green Jeans.  (He is our bodega aboding iguana who regularly nibbles through its foliage with joyful zeal, displaying total insensitivity to either its – or my – concerns!)  So, keep this in mind when you search for a location to plant yours.

If you can find one, I happily recommend it to you!

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This multi-trunked specimen, is in bright sunshine all day long.

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Five, small, uniquely petaled flowers precede the seeds from which the plant derives its name.

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How, one wonders – somewhat facetiously – did this plant get its name?