S. NAZIMUDDIN AND S. SHAHARYAR H. NAQVI
Momordica luffa Linn.
Annual, climber or trailer. Tendrils slightly pubescent, 3-6-fid. Stem 5-angled, finely hairy to glabrous. Leaves palmately 5-lobed, dark green, orbicular-cordate, 8-25 cm across, lobes triangular, lanceolate, acute-apiculate, entire or sinuate, scabrous. Petiole 5-15 cm long. Flowers bright yellow, pedicellate, 5-6 cm across; male racemose, racemes axillary, 12-25 cm long, 15-20-flowered, female flowers in the same axil as males. Probrract fleshy, ovate, with 3-7 glistening glands on the upper surface. Calyx tube short, broadly campanulate, slightly pubescent; lobes triangular-lanceolate, longer than tube. Petals obovate-cuneiform, 2.5-3.5 cm long, 1-2.5 cm broad, obtuse. Stamens 3-5, filaments 6-8 mm long. Ovary cylindrical, finely appressed hairy. Fruit cylindrical and fusiform, 20-50 cm long, 6-10 cm across, smooth. Seeds dull black, elliptic-ovoid, c. 10-12 mm long, 6-8 mm broad, with c. 1 mm wide margin.
Lectotype: Pepo indicus reticulatus seminibus nigris Herm., Hort. Acad. Lugd.-Bat. Cat. 482 (1637).
Distribution: Distributed in warmer countries of Asia and Africa; cultivated or subspontaneous; introduced in tropical America.
Spongegourd (Ghia tori) is widely cultivated for its fruits which are used as vegetable. The mature fruit becomes bitter and unpalatable due to hardening of fibrovascular bundles forming loofah sponge which is used by village housewives for scrubbing and cleaning the utencils. Loofah sponges are also used for cleaning motor cars, glassware and for stuffing pillows, mattresses, saddles and shoulder pads. The tender fruit is considered diuretic and its juice is purgative. Mature seeds are bitter, emetic and catthartic.