Coccinia grandis (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Coccinia grandis (L.) Voigt

Protologue: Hort. suburb. Calc.: 59 (1854).
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 24


Bryonia grandis L. (1767), Coccinia indica Wight & Arnott (1834), C. cordifolia (auct. non L.) Cogn. (1881).

Vernacular names

  • Ivy gourd, small gourd, scarlet gourd (En)
  • Indonesia: papasan, kemarongan (Java), bolu teke (Java)
  • Malaysia: pepasan, papasan
  • Cambodia: slök baahs
  • Laos: tam ling, tam nin
  • Thailand: phaktamlung (general), phakkhaep (northern)
  • Vietnam: hoa bát, rau bát.

Origin and geographic distribution

The genus Coccinia Wight & Arnott with about 30 species is confined to tropical Africa, with the exception of C. grandis, which occurs wild from Africa to the Indo-Malaysian region. It is cultivated mainly in India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.


Young shoots and leaves of ivy gourd are consumed as fried, blanched or boiled vegetable for the rice table, noodles or soups. It is a very popular green in Thailand. The young fruits are used in soups and curries. The ripe fruits of sweet cultivars can be eaten raw and they are sometimes comfited. The fruits of wild forms are often very bitter. The flesh can be processed into fermented or dehydrated chips which can be stored over a long period. Ivy gourd has many applications in indigenous medicine (poultice, antipyretics), but few clinical data on the effectiveness are available. It may have some potential value in the treatment of diabetes.

Production and international trade

Leaves and fruits of ivy gourd are regularly offered for sale on local markets, but it is not traded to a great extent. No production statistics are available.


Per 100 g edible portion, the fruits contain: water 94 g, protein 1-2 g, fat 0.1 g, carbohydrates 3.1 g, traces of vitamin A, vitamin B10.07 mg, vitamin B20.08 mg, niacin 0.7 mg, vitamin C 15 mg, Ca 40 mg, Fe 1.4 mg, P 30 mg. The energy value is 72-90 kJ/100 g.

The leaves are a good source of protein (3.3-4.9 g), minerals and vitamins, in particular vitamin A (8000-18 000 IU).


A perennial, dioecious, climbing or trailing herb up to 20 m long with tuberous roots. Stem green and longitudinally ribbed when young, becoming white-spotted when older and eventually woody and subterete; tendrils simple, usually one per node, in stipular position. Leaves simple, alternate, with petiole of 1-5 cm; leaf-blade broadly ovate to subpentagonal or orbicular in outline, 3-12 cm × 3-15 cm, shallowly to deeply palmately 3-5-lobed, cordate at base, margin entire or sinuate and often with distinct reddish glandular teeth, glabrous, punctate. Male flowers axillary, solitary or paired, rarely 3-4 in a short raceme; pedicel 0.7-7 cm long; receptacle tubular, 3-7 mm long; sepals 5, linear, up to 6 mm long; corolla campanulate, yellow-orange, green veined, 5-lobed, lobes up to 2 cm × 1.5 cm; staminal column 6 mm long. Female flowers axillary, solitary; pedicel up to 2.5 cm long; receptacle, calyx and corolla as in male flowers; ovary cylindrical, up to 1.5 cm long, style 3 mm long, stigma 3-lobed, each lobe 2-lobed. Fruit baccate, ellipsoid or rarely spherical, 3-7 cm × 1-3.5 cm, fleshy, green with white stripes when young, turning red at mturity; fruit stalk up to 4 cm long. Seed asymmetrically pyriform in outline, compressed, 6 mm × 3 mm × 1.5 mm, margin rather thick and grooved, testa fibrillose.

Other botanical information

The 12 chromosome pairs comprise a distinct heteromorphic pair of sex chromosomes in male plants (22 + XY), whereas female plants are homogametic (22 + XX).

The wild and cultivated forms are sometimes described as distinct botanical varieties, i.e. var. wightiana (Roemer) Grebenscikov for the wild forms and var. grandis for the cultivated forms. It is preferable, however, to classify the cultivated forms directly as cultivars below species level.


Ivy gourd occurs wild in grassland, brushwood, on roadsides, in hedges and light forests from the plains up to 1500 m altitude. Little is known about optimum ecological conditions, and their influence on growth and development. Ivy gourd seems to require well-distributed rainfall and fairly high humidity. Soils should be well-drained as it is intolerant to waterlogging.


Ivy gourd is the only cucurbit usually propagated by stem cuttings, 10-15 cm in length and 0.5 cm in diameter, which are planted in well-manured planting holes, spaced 1.5-2 m apart. Propagation by seed is also possible but little practised because of the dioecious nature of ivy gourd (50% non-productive male plants). A ratio of 1 : 10 male to female plants is considered adequate for pollination purposes. Ivy gourd is usually grown with a trellis support, or trained over fences or roofs in home gardens. The cultural practices and pest control of ivy gourd and bitter gourd ( Momordica charantia L.) are very similar.

Foliar diseases include anthracnose ( Colletotrichum sp.), powdery mildew ( Erysiphe cichoracearum ) and downy mildew ( Pseudoperonospora cubensis ), but there is little information on the extent of damage. Pests of ivy gourd are aphids ( Aphis spp.), red pumpkin beetle ( Aulacophora sp.) and fruit flies ( Dacus spp.).

Individual plant yields are in the order of 10 kg of immature fruits per year. However, ivy gourd is often primarily grown as a leafy vegetable. Young shoots wilt rapidly and should be marketed and consumed soon after harvest.

Genetic resources and breeding

C. grandis is only sparsely represented in the germplasm collections of some Indian research institutes. The selection work in India has resulted in several attractive sweet cultivars.


Relatively little information from South-East Asia is available on this naturally occurring crop. More research is needed to assess its potential as a vegetable or as a medicinal plant.


  • Bates, D.M., Robinson, R.W. & Jeffrey, C. (Editors), 1990. Biology and utilization of the Cucurbitaceae. Comstock, Cornell University Press, Syracuse, New York, United States. p. 21.
  • Herklots, G.A.C., 1972. Vegetables in South-East Asia. George Allen & Unwin, London, United Kingdom. p. 318.
  • Ochse, J.J. & Bakhuizen van den Brink, R.C., 1980. Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies. 3rd English edition (translation of "Indische groenten", 1931). Asher & Co., Amsterdam, the Netherlands. pp. 188-190.
  • Perry, L.M., 1980. Medicinal plants of East and Southeast Asia. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. p. 114.
  • Ramachandran, K. & Subramaniam, B., 1983. Scarlet gourd, Coccinia grandis, little-known tropical drug plant. Economic Botany 37(4): 380-383.
  • Tindall, H.D., 1983. Vegetables in the tropics. MacMillan, London, United Kingdom. pp. 152-154.


T. Boonkerd, B. Na Songkhla & W. Thephuttee