Please donate to support our ‘Plants to Save the Planet’ Project. The Project is directed at enabling designers of ‘carbon farms’ and ‘food forests’: agroecosystems of perennial plants, to choose the most appropriate plants for their requirements and site conditions. We are working on a subset of plants in the PFAF database identified as having the most potential for inclusion in such designs. We are adding search terms and icons to those plants pages, and providing a range of search options aligned to categories of plants and crop yields, with Help facilities including videos. More >>>

Follow Us:


Trichosanthes kirilowii - Maxim.

Common Name Chinese Cucumber
Family Cucurbitaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards Root extracts are extremely toxic. Intravenous administration can cause pulmonary oedema, cerebral oedema, cerebral haemorrhage and myocardial damage. Seizures and fever in HIV patients with parenteral administration. Self-medication of root not advised [301].
Habitats Forest edges and a weed of thickets in China[147]. Open forests, bushlands, grasslands and fields beside villages at elevations of 200 - 1800 metres[266].
Range E. Asia - China, Mongolia, Vietnam.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Trichosanthes kirilowii Chinese Cucumber
Trichosanthes kirilowii Chinese Cucumber


Translate this page:


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Trichosanthes kirilowii is a PERENNIAL CLIMBER growing to 6 m (19ft 8in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Trichosanthes obtusiloba C.Y. Wu


 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil  Oil  Root
Edible Uses: Oil  Oil

Fruit[183]. The young fruits are pickled[177]. The pulp of older fruits is eaten[179]. Mature fruits are about 10cm long[200]. Leaves and young shoots - cooked and used as a vegetable[177, 183]. An edible starch is obtained from the root[183]. It requires leeching[179], which probably means that it has a bitter flavour[K]. The root is harvested in the autumn, cut into thick slices, soaked for 4 - 5 days in water, changing the water daily until the root disintegrates and can be mashed into a fine pulp. It is then steamed into cakes or used for making dumplings[177, 178, 179]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.


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.
Abortifacient  Antibiotic  Anticholesterolemic  Antifungal  Antiinflammatory  Antitussive  Cancer  Depurative  
Emollient  Expectorant  Febrifuge  Galactogogue  Laxative  Oxytoxic  Sialagogue  
Skin  Uterine tonic  Vulnerary

This plant is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs[218]. Recent research has isolated a protein called 'trichosanthin' in the roots and this is undergoing trials as a possible remedy for AIDS[238]. Skin, vulnerary[174, 178]. The leaf and the stem are febrifuge[218]. The fruit is antibacterial, anticholesterolemic, antifungal, depurative, emollient, expectorant and laxative[147, 174, 176, 178, 238]. It is used in the treatment of pulmonary infections with yellow and thick sputum, chest pains, stuffy feelings in the chest, constipation and dry stool[176]. It has an antibacterial action against E. coli, Bacillus dysenteriae, B. typhi, B. paratyphi, Pseudomonas, Vibrio cholerae, V. Proteus etc[176]. The fruit is traditionally prepared as a winter soup to ward off colds and influenza[238]. The fruit is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[238]. The rind of the fruit is used to treat a number of ailments, including cancer, jaundice, retained placenta, bronchial infections with thick phlegm and sore throat[176, 218, 238]. The seed is antitussive, emollient and expectorant[218]. The root is antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, febrifuge, galactogogue, laxative, oxytocic, sialagogue and uterine tonic[147, 174, 176, 178, 218, 238]. The fresh root has been noted for centuries as an abortifacient - a sponge soaked in its juice was placed in the vagina and induced an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy[218]. The root is taken internally in the treatment of diabetes, dry coughs, and to assist in the second stage of labour[176, 238]. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[238]. The root and/or the seed is powdered and used in the treatment of mammary cancer[218]. One website user has noted that Trichosanthes kirilowii is an 'important Chinese medicinal plant of which the whole fruit, seeds, rind, AND tuberous-rhizome are all used regularly in medicine. While certain types of extracts may be toxic and the raw/unprocessed root may be toxic, to state unequivocally that the root is toxic is to err.'


Our new book Edible Shrubs is now available.

Edible Shrubs provides detailed information, attractively presented, on over 70 shrub species. They have been selected to provide a mix of different plant sizes and growing conditions. Most provide delicious and nutritious fruit, but many also have edible leaves, seeds, flowers, stems or roots, or they yield edible or useful oil.

Read More

Edible Shrubs Book

Other Uses

Oil  Oil

An oil from the seed is used for lighting[178].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

Requires a rich well-drained soil and plenty of moisture in the growing season[1, 200]. Sometimes cultivated in China for its edible fruit and medicinal uses. Male plants are favoured for root production[238]. This species is not winter hardy in Britain and usually requires greenhouse cultivation[238]. However, it may be possible to grow it as an annual in a very warm sheltered bed outdoors[1]. A climbing plant, supporting itself by means of tendrils[238]. Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if seed is required[238].


Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

Shop Now


Seed - sow March in pots in a warm greenhouse in a rich soil. Sow 2 - 3 seeds per pot and thin to the strongest plant. Grow them on fast and plant out after the last expected frosts. Give some protection, such as a frame or cloche, until the plants are growing away well.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Trichosanthes cucumerina anguinaSnake GourdAnnual Climber5.0 10-12 FLMHNM210
Trichosanthes kirilowii japonica Perennial Climber6.0 8-11 FLMHNM331
Trichosanthes multiloba Perennial Climber0.0 - FLMHNM21 
Trichosanthes ovigeraJapanese Snake GourdPerennial Climber0.0 9-11 FLMHNM22 

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.


Print Friendly and PDF

Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

   Mon Aug 25 19:50:35 2003

We live in zone 5 and grow this plant in a protected area with good results. This is it's third year and it's absolutely everywhere growing fruits that are at least 4".

JD   Fri Aug 1 2008

I live outside of Houston Texas. Where can I get seeds to grown this plant? Please answer to thanks for your helpful info

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Trichosanthes kirilowii  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Some information cannot be used for commercial reasons or be modified (but some can). Please view the copyright link for more information.
Web Design & Management