The Sponge Gourd or Loofah (Luffa aegyptiaca) is widely valued for its interior fibers. Dried, these gourds are used for scrubbing and cleaning (among other uses). This plant is native to Asia (possibly India) and was first grown commercially in Japan in 1890. It was subsequently brought to the American tropics. Sponge Gourds are commonly used to exfoliate and cleanse the skin during bathing. (Prance 2004) This species has often been called L. cylindrica.
After mature Sponge Gourds are harvested, they are soaked in water to encourage decay of the outer fruit wall and inner pulp, then washed thoroughly to remove extraneous material. The remaining fiber is dried in the sun and bleached white. Sponge Gourds are grown widely in Asia, especially China, and in the New World, especially Guatemala and Colombia. (Sargent and Maynard 2012 and references therein) They are cultivated and naturalized across Africa, where they grow as weeds around cultivated crops and in disturbed habitats (Neuwinger 1996).
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