All About the Cashew Flower

Although cashew trees are grown primarily for their can’t-get-enough-of-‘em nuts, they’re also surprisingly attractive. Their spreading canopies provide welcome shade in the tropical countries they call home. And when their delicate clusters of tiny, yellow-pink flowers open each year, the contrast with their glossy, evergreen leaves is striking. But cashew flowers are more than decorative; they’re also the next generation of nuts.


The Cashew Inflorescence

Cashew flowers develop in inflorescence or clustered. In their case, the clusters are multi-branched with conical or irregular shapes. They dangle from the ends of the trees’ new growth. Clusters measure up to 10 inches long and contain as many as 500 individual buds. Each one opens in sequence, from the tip of its main branch to its side ones.

The Cashew Flower

Cashews begin as tiny, pale-green buds. They open into sweetly fragrant, pinkish-yellow flowers just 1/3 to 1/2 inches across that are either male or perfect flowers with male and female parts. The males open first and usually outnumber perfect flowers by a 4- or 5-to-1 margin.

Expert gardener’s tip: Only about one of every 20 perfect flowers gets pollinated successfully. Most cashew flower clusters produce less than six nuts.

When Cashew Trees Flower

Cashew trees in the tropics bloom after the wet season:

  • In northern Brazil, cashews typically flower between August and September.
  • In southern India, they flower in December and January.
  • In south Florida, they flower in spring.
  • In tropical regions with year-round rainfall, the trees may flower more than once.

Wherever they grow, colder than normal weather will delay their bloom.

From Flowers to Fruit

About six to eight weeks after they’re pollinated with help from honeybees and other insects, the flowers develop into grayish-green, kidney-shaped fruits called drupes.. Inside each is a cashew kernel. Before a drupe ripens completely, its stalk swells into a plump, juicy reddish-yellow cashew apple. The cashews are harvested when the ripe apples fall from the trees.

Expert gardener’s tip: Cashew apples are classified as “accessory” fruits — but not because they look remarkably like handbags!

Where Cashews Grow

Tropical cashew trees produce harvestable nuts in as soon as three years after planting. USDA hardiness zones 10b through 12 have the mild winters and hot summers they need, but the trees seem to thrive only in South Florida.