Luffa cylindrica (Vegetable Sponge Gourd)

Scientific name

Luffa cylindrica  (L.) Rox.

Synonyms

Luffa fluminensis M.J. Roem.; Cucumis acutangulus L.; Cucurbita acutangula (L.) Blume; Luffa foetida Cav.; Luffa plukenetiana Ser.; Luffa hermaphrodita Singh & Bandhari; Momordica luffaVell.

Common names

Smooth luffa, sponge luffa, vegetable sponge gourd, climbing okra, dishcloth gourd, Chinese okra

Family

Cucurbitaceae

Origin

Luffa cylindrica  is native to India

Naturalised distribution (global)

Locations within which Luffa cylindrica  is naturalised include eastern Africa and some Pacific islands.

Introduced, naturalised or invasive in East Africa

Luffa cylindrica  is naturalised in parts of Kenya and Tanzania and invasive in parts of Uganda (A.B.R. Witt pers. obs.).

Habitat

Forest gaps and edges, agricultural lands and other disturbed areas.

Description

Luffa cylindrica  is a very fast growing climber. Its leaves are 7 - 20 cm across and have three lobes. Flowers are bright yellow. The fruits which grow to about 60 cm in length are oblong or cylindrical, smooth and contain many seeds. The fruit is brown when mature and dries on the vine to develop an inedible sponge-like structure.

Economic and other uses

The dry fruit of Luffa cylindrica  can be used as a sponge. Young green fruits can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable.

Environmental and other impacts

This species is capable of invading disturbed areas.

Management

The precise management measures adopted for any plant invasion will depend upon factors such as the terrain, the cost and availability of labour, the severity of the infestation and the presence of other invasive species.

The best form of invasive species management is prevention. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to treat the weed infestations when they are small to prevent them from establishing (early detection and rapid response). Controlling the weed before it seeds will reduce future problems. Control is generally best applied to the least infested areas before dense infestations are tackled. Consistent follow-up work is required for sustainable management.

The editors could find no specific information on the management of this species.

Legislation

Not listed as a noxious weed by the state or governments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

References

Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/index.html. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, National Genetic Resources Program, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Beltsville, Maryland, USA. Accessed March 2011.

Heiser C. B. and Schilling E. E. 1988. Phylogeny and Distribution of Luffa (Cucurbitaceae), Biotropica 20(3): 185-191.

Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). Luffa acutangula datasheet: plant threats to Pacific ecosystems. Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, Hawaii, www.hear.org/pier.  Accessed March 2011.

Editors

Agnes Lusweti, National Museums of Kenya; Emily Wabuyele, National Museums of Kenya, Paul Ssegawa, Makerere University; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat - UK.

Acknowledgments

This fact sheet is adapted from The Environmental Weeds of Australia by Sheldon Navie and Steve Adkins, Centre for Biological Information Technology, University of Queensland. We recognise the support from the National Museums of Kenya, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) - Tanzania and Makerere University, Uganda. This activity was undertaken as part of the BioNET-EAFRINET UVIMA Project (Taxonomy for Development in East Africa).

Contact

BioNET-EAFRINET Regional Coordinator: eafrinet@africaonline.co.ke