Caricaceae: Carica papaya
The papaya family (Caricaceae) has only five species and two genera in Costa Rica. One of them, Jacaratia spinosa, gets to be a very large tree about 25 m tall. Papayas themselves come from small, fast-growing trees. They produce fruits by about four months after planting and continue producing for several years. In one way papayas are like most animals; individuals are either male or female. The photo on the left is of a "male" plant--the flowers produce pollen but no fruits. The flowers of the "female" plant on the right produce no pollen. Botanists call such plants DIOECIOUS, a word derived from Greek, meaning "two homes." In a more typical kind of plant, like a pineapple or a tomato, the sexes are together; each flower can produce both pollen and fruit.
© Barry Hammel 1996