Monday, March 26, 2012

Binomen Art - Carica papaya

Carica papaya - Caribbean Red - Binomial Name
The two papayas, Carica papaya, that we use on top of our muesli in the mornings are either

  • Caribbean Red from Belize. Source by They describe it as a maradol-like papaya that weights between 2 and 5 pounds and has pinkish flesh. They are similar to melon in flavor.
  • Calavo Gold from Hawaii is smaller, golden on the outside.

Both are readily available at our local market and both have a lot of slippery, black seeds inside. The seed are what are used in these photos to spell out the binomial name. The seeds have a spring to them and seem to be covered with a black coating that has a little give to it. While preparing this post, we read at Wikipedia that “The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper.”

The etymology of the generic name Carica according to Quattrocchi is:

Latin carica, ae “a kind of fig, dry fig” (Cicero, Ovidius and Plinius), caricus “Carian”, Greek karike and karikos; see Carl Linnaeus, Species Plantarum. 1036. 1753 and Genera Plantarum. Ed. 5. 458. 1754;

The specific epithet papaya comes from Taíno, and Arawakan language which was the principal language in the Caribbean islands at the time of the Spanish Conquest. A list of List of English words from indigenous languages of the Americas can be found at Wikipedia.

Interestingly, Dave’s Garden Botanary describes the etymology of the generic name also as coming from the Greek karike, but also mentions that it is because the leaves of the papaya resemble fig leaves. To delve into this further, we consulted the online versions of Species Plantarum (e.g. at Botanicus or BioDiversityLibrary or Internet Archive), and on page 1036 (volume 2) we find the following description:

“Arbor platani folio, fructu peponis magnitudine eduli. Ficus arbor utriusque indiae, platani foliis, monopeteches.” which translates (according to Google) as “Tree leaf plane trees, the fruit of melons the size of food. The fig tree of India, the leaves of plane trees, monopeteches.”
Extract from Species Plantarum for Carica (Left)

Not exactly a smooth translation, but it does mention fig leaves, so maybe DG is correct. Linnaeus says nothing of the use of its tasty flesh on top of muesli. Hmm.

Caribbean Red – Carica papaya L. Unknown Variety – Cut Open with Binomial Name
Carica papaya - Caribbean Red - Binomial NameCarica papaya - Caribbean Red - Binomial Name

Caribbean Red Papayas on Display at the Grocery Store (Left) and Seed Whole and Split (Right)Carica papaya - Caribbean Red - In the MarketCarica papaya - Caribbean Red - Seeds

Calavo Gold, Golden Papayas (from Hawaii) at the Grocery Store (Left) and Binomial Art (Right)
Papayas at the Grocery StoreGolden Papaya - Split Open

Calavo Gold Papaya Cut Open
Carica Papaya - Cut Open


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  2. I really love to read this post and I am glad to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Thanks and Regards


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