Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

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Luffa operculata
(L.) Cogn., Cucurbitaceae
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Present on Pacific Islands?  no

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Other Latin names:  Luffa quinquefida (Hook. & Arn.) Seem.; Momordica operculata L.

Common name(s): [more details]

English: luffa

Habit:  vine

Description:  "Herbaceous vines, often forming dense masses of scandent or prostrate growth; stems rather slender, striate, freely branching; tendrils mostly bifid on peduncles 1-6 cm. long; leaves on slender petioles mostly 2-6 cm. long, the blades cordiform-reniform in outline, 3-10 (-15) cm. long, scabrous on both surfaces, usually 3-5-lobate, the lobes constricted at the base, the lateral lobes smaller and obtuse, the margins entire to obscurely denticulate, basal sinus broadly arched to rectangular; flowers pale yellow, rather small, the staminate ones in slender racemes, the pistillate solitary or single in the axils with staminate flowers; staminate flowers: racemes 10-20 cm. long, exceeding the leaves, the 5-30 flowers borne on the distal third or less, only 1 or 2 in anthesis at a time, pedicels slender, 2-3 mm. long, bracteate at or near the base, the bracts glanduliferous. receptacle short, broadly campanulate, sepals triangular to ovate-acuminate, about 3 mm. long, 1-1.5 mm. wide at base, valvate in bud, median nerve prominent, petals 5, free, about 1 cm. long, ovate to wedge-shaped, obtuse and apiculate, 3-nerved, stamens 3 (one monothecous, two dithecous), wholly free or the anthers partly connate, inserted low on the receptacle, thecae gently curved and marginal on broad lobes of connective tissue, filaments linear, about 2 mm. long, 0.5 mm. thick, hairy at the base, pollen 3-colporate, reticulate, about 50 u in diameter; pistillate flowers: sessile or short-stalked, ovary fusiform, long-rostrate, tomentose and also tuberculate-spiny, ovules numerous, horizontal, receptacle very short, campanulate, petals and sepals similar to those of the staminate flowers, rudimentary stamens sometimes present, style linear, glabrous, sometimes 3-parted in the upper quarter, stigmas broadly lobed; fruit about the size of a hen's egg, or smaller, ellipsoid to broadly fusiform, short-stalked, rostrate, dry, operculate, obscurely ribbed, sparsely beset with short, thick spines, thin-walled, coarsely fibrous within, many-seeded; seeds oblong to elliptic in outline, immarginate, about 9 mm. long, nearly white to dark brown, dull, smooth, compressed, the hilar end of each face ornamented with a pair of ridges, hilum bordered by a short, thin collar.  This species is easily confused with Momordica charantia L., which it closely resembles in habit and overall appearance. It may be readily distinguished, however, by its fibrous, operculate fruits, or by its racemes of staminate flowers"  (Standley et al., 1974; p. 354).

"Rather similar to [Luffa acutangula], but the petioles slender, the leaves less scabrous, the tendrils bifid or simple, the peduncles 5-8 cm. long, 6-10-flowered, the petals 8-10 mm. long, the filaments 2-3 mm. long, the fruits beaked, their 10 costae spinulose, the brown seeds not margined. A very common, annual vine, reaching a height of 10 meters at least when support is available. When the fruit is ripe, a circular piece about 3 cm. across drops off the apex, and the seeds are gradually shaken out by the wind. The fruit is dry, spiny, about 6-8 cm. long by 3-4 cm. across"  (Macbride, 1937; 13(6/2):365-366).

Habitat/ecology:  In Guatemala (native), "lowlands, near sea level"  (Standley et al., 1974; p. 354)

Propagation:  Seed

Native range:  Tropical and subtropical America  (Macbride, 1937; 13(6/2):365-366).

Presence:

Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Australia
Australia (continental)
Australia (continental) introduced
invasive
Randall, R. P. (2007) (p. 291)
Colombia
Colombia
Colombia (Republic of) native
Standley, Paul C./Williams, Louis O./Gibson, Dorothy Nash (1974) (p. 11:354)
Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala (Republic of) native
Standley, Paul C./Williams, Louis O./Gibson, Dorothy Nash (1974) (p. 11:354)
Mexico
Mexico
Mexico (United Mexican States) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Sonora
Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Perú
Perú
Perú (Republic of) native
Macbride, J. Francis (1936) (pp. 13(6/2):365-366)


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This page was created on 12 JUL 2013 and was last updated on 6 AUG 2013.