Trichosanthes cucumerina (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Trichosanthes cucumerina L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 1008 (1753).


  • Trichosanthes anguina L. (1753),
  • Trichosanthes pedatifolia Miq. (1856),
  • Trichosanthes reniformis Miq. (1856).

Vernacular names

  • Snake gourd (En)
  • Patole, serpent végétal (Fr)
  • Indonesia: paria belut (general), petola ular (Malay, Moluccas), pare welut (Javanese)
  • Malaysia: ketola ular, timun bengkok, petola ular (Peninsular)
  • Philippines: melon-daga, pakupis, tabubok (Tagalog)
  • Laos: ngoo ngèèwz
  • Thailand: buap ngu, nom phichit (central), ma noi (northern)
  • Vietnam: dây na tây, dưa núi, mư ớp tây.


From India and Sri Lanka to Indo-China, southern China, Thailand and throughout Malesia towards northern Australia; cultivated in this area and elsewhere.


Fruits of wild plants are used as a purgative and a vermifuge. In Indonesia, the inner pulp of the fruit is made into a syrup to treat cough. Immature fruits of cultivated forms are eaten boiled as a vegetable or in curries. Young shoots and leaves are also edible. The fruits become inedible upon ripening. In West Africa, the red fruit pulp is used as a kind of cheap tomato paste. Fruits of the wild forms are very bitter and inedible.


  • A monoecious, annual vine up to 6 m long, stem 4-angular, sparsely pubescent or glabrescent.
  • Leaves suborbicular or slightly kidney-shaped to broadly ovate, shallowly to deeply 3-7-lobed, 7-10 cm × 6-13 cm (in cultivated forms up to 25 cm across), base cordate, lobes rounded to obtuse, sparsely hirsute to almost glabrous on both sides.
  • Corolla about 3 cm in diameter; male flowers in lax, 3-25 cm long racemes, bracts small, up to 2 mm long; female flowers solitary or rarely in pairs.
  • Fruit ovoid, 4.5-7.5 cm × 3-4 cm, ripening to yellow or orange (in cultivated forms fruit linear, up to 100 cm long).
  • Seeds ovate-truncate, compressed.

The cultivated forms are traditionally distinguished as a species ( T. anguina L.), subspecies (subsp. anguina (L.) Greb.) or variety (var. anguina (L.) Haines), though it seems more appropriate to classify these in a cultivar group (e.g. cv. group Snake Gourd). Wild T. cucumerina is found in open forest, forest margins and scrub vegetation, up to 1000(-1500) m altitude.

Selected sources

97, 233, 486, 721, 759, 763, 792, 886, 1128, 1134, 1178, 1263, 1313, 1443. medicinals


  • M.S.M. Sosef, E. Boer & N. Bunyapraphatsara