Citrullus colocynthis

(Linnaeus) Schrader

Linnaea 12: 414. 1838.

Common names: Colocynth bitter apple bitter cucumber vine of Sodom
Basionym: Cucumis colocynthis Linnaeus Sp. Pl. 2: 1011. 1753
Synonyms: Colocynthis vulgaris Schrader
Treatment appears in FNA Volume 6. Treatment on page 42. Mentioned on page 41.

Vines perennial. Stems trailing, 50–150 cm, pustulate-scabrous to pustulate-hispid and sparsely hirsute with deflexed hairs; roots fleshy to ± woody, tuberous; tendrils usually unbranched, rarely 2-branched. Leaf blades elongate-ovate, 1–6(–11) cm, 3–5(–7)-lobed, lobes pinnately shallowly lobed or sinuate, margins serrate to dentate, surfaces pustulate-scabrous. Flowers: hypanthium campanulate, 4–8 mm; sepals lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, 5 mm; petals obovate-oblong, 6–10 mm. Pepos variegated green and yellow or yellow, green-striped, globose to subglobose, with ± elliptical fissures, 4–7(–10) cm diam.; rind thin, not durable, mesocarp light yellowish orange to pale yellow, dry-spongy, intensely bitter. Seeds dark brown to yellowish orange, ovoid-oblong to ellipsoid, 6 mm. 2n = 22.

Phenology: Flowering Jun–Sep.
Habitat: Peanut fields, pond dikes in cotton fields, fallow fields, waste ground
Elevation: 0–100 m


V6 67-distribution-map.jpg

Introduced; Calif., Mass., Tex., Africa, introduced also in Europe, Asia, Pacific Islands, Australia.


Citrullus colocynthis is a traditional food plant in Africa, where it is grown particularly for its edible seeds, which are bitter but nutty-flavored, rich in fat and protein, and eaten whole or used as an oilseed. It has also been a standard cathartic remedy, mostly in combination with other cathartics.

Three main haplotypes within colocynth have been identified via molecular data (F. Dane and P. Lang 2004; Dane and J. Liu 2007; A. Levi and C. E. Thomas 2005).

Colocynth rarely is encountered outside of cultivation. It has been reported as a weed in Texas peanut fields (G. L. Nesom 2011); in Massachusetts, it has been sporadically collected since 1878; in California, it has been collected on a pond dike in an area of cotton fields in Kern County.

Selected References


Lower Taxa

... more about "Citrullus colocynthis"
Guy L. Nesom +
(Linnaeus) Schrader +
Cucumis colocynthis +
Colocynth +, bitter apple +, bitter cucumber +  and vine of Sodom +
Calif. +, Mass. +, Tex. +, Africa +, introduced also in Europe +, Asia +, Pacific Islands +  and Australia. +
0–100 m +
Peanut fields, pond dikes in cotton fields, fallow fields, waste ground +
Flowering Jun–Sep. +
Introduced +
Colocynthis vulgaris +
Citrullus colocynthis +
Citrullus +
species +