Balsam Apple, African Cucumber Mormodica balsamina
Order: Cucurbitales. Family: Cucurbitaceae
Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkDescription
Glabrous to slightly hairy perennial climbing herb with a tuberous rootstock, whole plant bad-smelling, more so when bruised. Stems mostly annual, prostrate or climbing, to 5 m long, cut twigs exude clear sap. Tendrils simple. Leaves waxy, lower surface paler than upper, deeply palmately 5-7-lobed, to 12 cm long, margin toothed, stalked.
Flowers solitary, male and female flowers on the same plant (monoecious). Male flowers prominently bracteate (subtended by a leaflet), bract ± ovate, to 18 mm long, pallid, green-veined, calyx green to purplish-black, corolla white to yellow, apricot or orange, green-veined, with grey, brownish or black spots near the bases of the three inner petals, 10-20 mm long, anthers orange. Female flowers inconspicuously bracteate, corolla rather smaller than males.
Fruit spindle shaped, dark green with 9 or 10 regular or irregular rows of cream or yellowish short blunt spines, ripening to bright orange or red, 25-60 mm long, opening automatically more or less irregularly into three valves that curl back (also opens when the tip is touched). Seeds ovate in outline, rather compressed, up to 11 mm long, light brown, surface sculptured; encased in a sticky scarlet red fleshy covering that is edible and sweet, tasting like watermelon.Distribution
Common in tropical Africa, particularly in coastal areas, widespread in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and all the provinces of South Africa except the Western Cape. Also in Arabia, India and Australia.Habitat
Grassland, savanna, woodland, forest margins, coastal dune forests and in river bank vegetation as well as disturbed areas.
Links: Biodiversity Explorer