This evergreen tender perennial vine is native to the sandy arid soils of the Mediterranean Basin and Asia, and goes by many common names including bitter apple, bitter cucumber, desert gourd, vine of Sodom, and wild gourd. It is a member of the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, that also includes cucumbers, watermelon and squash. The plants have a large fleshy tap root and rough, angular, vine-like stems that can climb by means of branching axillary tendrils. The rough palmate leaves are 2-4″ long and have 3-7 lobes. Male and female yellow flowers are borne singly on the same plant and fertilized female flowers give rise to a small, hard fruit, known as a pepo. The fruit is green, orange and yellow variegated, maturing to yellow, about the size of an orange, and has a very bitter yellowish spongy pulp and numerous ovoid, flattened, yellow-orange to brown seeds. The fruit and seeds are used for food, medicine, and as an energy source. The genus name, Citrullus, is the diminutive of the Latin word citrus, the classical Latiname of the citron tree. The specific epithet, colocynthis, is derived from the Greek kolokunthis meaning round gourd and refers to the fruit.
Type: Evergreen tender perennial vine
Bloom: Male and female yellow flowers on the same plant
Size: Low growing but will climb if support available.
Light: Full sun
Soil: Sandy, well-drained, acidic to netural; very drought tolerant.
Hardiness: Zones 10-12
Care: Low maintenance
Pests and Diseases: Colletotrichum bryoniae, Erysiphe cichoracearum, E. polyphaga, E. semitectum, Fusarium oxysporum, and Puccinis citrulli, bottle gourd mosaic virus, and nematode, Meloidogyne sp.
Propagation: Seed, vegetative
Companion Plant: Often interplanted with cassava