Cucumis arenarius Schrad.
Cucumis dipsaceus Wender. ex Steud.
Cucumis hookeri Naudin
Cucumis africanus is an annual or perhaps sometimes a perennial herb, or at least sometimes developing a woody rootstock. The stems are up to 2 metres long, either scrambling over the ground or climbing into other plants, where they support themselves by means of tendrils[
The plant is harvested from the wild as a local source of food and medicine.
The fruits, especially the bitter forms, contain considerable amounts of cucurbitacin A, B and D and traces of cucurbitacin G and H. Cucurbitacins, which are known from many Cucurbitaceae and various other plant species, have been shown to exhibit cytotoxicity (including antitumor activity), anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities[
Southern Africa - southern Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Madagascar, S. Africa.
Common on deep and well-drained soils such as white, red or brown sand, grey or red loam and gravelly or stony soil. It is also found on brackish soils with underlying limestone formations as well as blackish clay soil[
A plant of drier areas in the tropics - in S. Africa it grows in areas where the mean annual rainfall is within the range 100 - 800mm[
Succeeds in full sun and also grows well in partial shade in very sunny areas[
]. Leaves are larger and less hairy when the plant is given some shade[
There are three basic forms of this species:-
Plants with non-bitter, large and oblong fruits are found growing wild in Angola, Namibia and South Africa[
A form with smaller, ellipsoid fruits is also - these fruits are bitter, possibly poisonous and unsuitable for consumption[
A third type, intermediate in taste and shape between the first two, seems to exist as well[
Young leaves - cooked and eaten as a vegetable[
]. The fruits of non-bitter forms are pickled and preserved[
]. The bitter fruit is sometimes eaten[
]. The seeds and some of the pulp is often removed before the remainder of the fruit is cooked[
]. The fruit is sometimes used as a source of water by travellers in the desert[
]. The greenish-yellow ripe fruit is 3 - 8cm long and 3cm wide, covered in prickles up to 10mm long[
]. It occurs in two distinct forms. One is small, ellipsoidal, with a bitter flavour - it is poisonous even when ripe. The other form is larger, cylindrical, with a non-bitter flavour that is edible when ripe[
In South African traditional medicine the fruit, leaf or root is used as an emetic, purgative or enema in the treatment of various ailments[
The boiled leaf is used as a poultice[
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