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Benincasa hispida (Thunberg ex Murray) Cogniaux

Benincasa hispida (Thunberg ex Murray) Cogniaux

Family

Cucurbitaceae

Synonyms

Cucurbita hispida Thunberg ex Murray, Benincasa cerifera Savi.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Kundor.
English Wax gourd, white gourd, Chinese preserving melon.
Indonesia Kundur, bligo, kundo (Aceh).
Philippines Kondol (Tagalog), tibiayon (Bisaya), rodal (Bicol).
Cambodia Trâllaach.
Laos Tônx.
Thailand Fak, faeng (Central), mafaeng (Northern).
Vietnam B[is] dao, b[is] xanh.
French Courge à la cire, courge cireuse.

Geographical Distributions

The genus of Benincasa hispida is usually considered monotypic. There is no general agreement on the origin of the wax gourd. Indo-China and India are the centers of greatest diversity, but Benincasa hispida is not known from the wild and no related with wild species are known. There is some evidence that B. hispida has been cultivated in China since 500 AD. The wax gourd is now widely cultivated throughout tropical Asia, and has been introduced to other tropical, subtropical and warm temperate parts of the world as well (e.g. the Caribbean).

Description

B. hispida is a robust, annual, usually monoecious, hispid and climbing herb that can reach up to several metre long. The stem is thick, cylindrical, furrowed longitudinally and whitish-green with scattered rough hairs. Its tendrils are inserted beside the leaves with 2-3-fid, measure 10-35 cm long and spirally coiled at the top where the two lateral arms are much shorter than the central one.

The leaves are arranged simple and distichous. The petiole is 5-20 cm long. The leaf-blade is broadly ovate in outline, measuring 10-25 cm x 10-20 cm, deeply cordate at the base, acuminate at the apex, more or less deeply margin and irregularly 5-11-angular or -lobed and irregularly undulate-crenate or dentate-serrate, densely and with patently hispid on both side.

The 5-merous unisexual yellow flowers are solitary in leaf axils, large and measuring 6-12 cm in diametre. The pedicel is a densely hispid, measures 5-15 cm long in the male flowers and measures 2-4 cm long in the female. The sepal is bell-shaped and densely silky. The petals are almost free. The male flowers are with 5 stamens, which 4 of these are in connate pairs. The female flowers are with densely villose ovoid or cylindrical ovary and a short style with 3 curved stigmas.

The fruit is a large and stalked berry (pepo). It is ovoid-oblong, ellipsoid or spherical, measuring 20-60(-200) cm x 10-25 cm, dark green to speckled light green or glaucous, thinly hispid or subglabrous, covered with a chalk-white and easily removable layer of wax. Its flesh is 2-4 cm thick, white, succulent, slightly fragrant and spongy in the middle.

The seeds are numerous, measuring 10-15 mm x 5-7 mm x 1-2 mm, flat, ovate-elliptic, yellow-brown and sometimes prominently ridged.

Ecology / Cultivation

B. hispida is best suited to the moderately dry areas of the lowland tropics. It is relatively drought-tolerant. It is grown in Southeast Asia from sea level up to 1000 m altitude. High soil temperatures are required for the optimum seed germination. The optimum temperature for growth is 23-28°C. The ratio of female to male flowers is increased by relatively cool weather and short days.

Line Drawing / Photograph

Benincasa_hispida

References

  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 8: Vegetables.

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