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Citrullus colocynthis - (L.) Schrad

Common Name Perennial egusi, Bitter-apple
Family Cucurbitaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The plant contains a number of potentially toxic compounds and can be harmful if used in quantity. These compounds include elatermidine, glycosides, resin, dihydric alcohol, heltiacontane, citrullin and citrullinic acid. Taken in excess they can cause gastrointestinal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, hypothermia, cardiac disorders, cerebral congestion and necrosis of liver and renal cells[1314].
Habitats Open woodlands, grasslands, river beds and banks, flood plains, on bare areas and road verges and in disturbed and undisturbed natural vegetation.
Range Northern Africa through Arabia to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Citrullus colocynthis Perennial egusi, Bitter-apple

wikimedia.org H. Zell
Citrullus colocynthis Perennial egusi, Bitter-apple
wikimedia.org H. Zell


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A desert vine resembles the common watermelon vine, but with small, hard fruits with a bitter pulp. Vine-like stems spread in all directions for a few meters. Can be misspelt as Citrullus colocynthus.

Physical Characteristics

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Citrullus colocynthis is an evergreen Perennial growing to 3 m (9ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Misspelt as Citrullus colocynthus. Citrullus colocynthoides Pangalo. Citrullus pseudocolocynthis M.Roem. Colocynthis officinalis Schrad. Colocynthis vulgaris Schrad. Cucumis colocynthis L.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Fruit - cooked [301 ]. They are first boiled in several changes of water to remove a bitter principle, and then made into pickles and preserves[301 ]. The fruit is 5 - 8cm in diameter [284 ]. Seed - cooked[301 ]. Eaten roasted or ground into a meal and used to make chapattis [301 ]. The desert Bedouin are said to make a type of bread from the ground seeds. Some confusion exists between this species and the closely related watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb)), whose seeds may be used in much the same way. In particular, the name "egusi" may refer to either or both plants (or more generically to other cucurbits) in their capacity as seed crops, or for a soup made from these seeds and popular in West Africa. The seed flour is rich in micronutrients, and could therefore be used in food formulations especially in regions with low milk consumption, such as West Africa. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[301 ]. The seeds yield is about 6.7-10 t/ha, which means that for an oil profit of 31-47%, oil yields may reach up to 3 t/ha. Carbon Farming Solutions - Staple Crop: protein-oil (The term staple crop typically refers to a food that is eaten routinely and accounts for a dominant part of people's diets in a particular region of the world) [1-1].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The dried, unripe fruit pulp constitutes the drug 'colocynth', which is a very strong laxative[200 , 284 ]. It is also used as an antirheumatic, anthelmintic, hydrogogue, and as a remedy for skin infections[46 , 310 ]. The fruits and seeds are used in the treatment of diabetes[1314 ]. The roots have purgative properties and are used in the treatment of jaundice, rheumatism and urinary diseases[284 ]. Some caution should be employed in the use of this remedy, see the notes above on toxicity.

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


The seeds contain 30 - 34% of a pale yellow oil, which contains an alkaloid, a glucoside and a saponin[284]. Carbon Farming Solutions - Other Systems: strip intercrop (Crops grown for non-food uses. Industrial crops provide resources in three main categories: materials, chemicals, and energy. Traditional materials include lumber and thatch, paper and cardboard, and textiles) [1-1].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Other Systems: Strip intercrop  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

Climate: subtropical to tropical. Humidity: arid to semi-arid. A plant found mainly in the drier areas the tropics and subtropics, though it can tolerate high levels of rainfall when cultivated. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 23 - 32°c, but can tolerate 14 - 40°c [418 ]. Mature growth can be killed by temperatures of -5°c or lower, but young growth is severely damaged at 0°c [418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 300 - 500mm, but tolerates 250 - 4,300mm [418 ]. Prefers a well-drained, light soil and a position in full sun [200 ]. Plants are very drought hardy [284 , 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 4.5 - 7.5, tolerating 4 - 8[418 ]. Productivity is enhanced during dry, sunny periods and reduced during periods of excessive rainfall and high humidity[418 ]. Carbon Farming Solutions - Cultivation: regional crop only. Management: standard (Describes the non-destructive management systems that are used in cultivation) [1-1]. .

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Other Systems: Strip intercrop  Tree crops grown in rows with alternating annual crops.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation


Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Bitter apple, bitter paddy melon, colocynth, colocynth melon, vine-of-Sodom, wild gourd, Bitter cucumber, Desert gourd, Egusi, vine of Sodom

TEMPERATE ASIA: Afghanistan, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sinai, Syria, Turkey (south), Yemen,Kuwait. TROPICAL ASIA: India, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi, Goa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, EUROPE: Greece, Italy, Sicilia, Spain, AFRICA: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad, Yemen, Arkhabil Suqutrá, Kenya, Mali.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis) is an environmental weed in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Victoria. this species is common in disturbed inland areas, particularly on floodplains in semi-arid regions.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Citrullus lanatusWater MelonAnnual0.5 8-11  LMNDM431

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(L.) Schrad

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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