Luffa aegyptiaca is a species of Luffa grown for its fruit. The fruit somewhat resembles a cucumber. The young fruit is eaten as a vegetable and is commonly grown for that purpose in tropical Asia. Unlike the young fruit, the fully ripened fruit is strongly fibrous and is used to make scrubbing bath sponges. Due to the use of the ripe fruit as a scrubbing sponge, it is also known by the common names dishrag gourd, rag gourd, sponge gourd, and vegetable-sponge. It is also called Smooth Luffa to distinguish it from the Ridged Luffa, which is another species of luffa used for the same purposes. In English the name is also spelled loofah.
The plant is an annual. It is native to south and southeast Asia (in Vietnamese language it is called mướp hương). As a tropical plant, it requires lots of heat and lots of water to thrive. It is a climbing vine and is best grown with a trellis support. The fruits, which are about 30 centimeters long, hang vertically (unlike their relatives the cucumbers, where the fruits grow on the ground horizontally). Sometimes Luffa aegyptiaca is grown as an ornamental vine. It has big yellow flowers before the fruits form.
Its botanical specific epithet, "aegyptiaca" (sometimes misspelled "aegyptica") was given to it because in the early 18th century European botanists were introduced to the plant from its cultivation in Egypt. In the European botanical literature the plant was first described in 1706 by the botanist Tournefort who called it "Luffa Arabum" (see Luffa).
- GRIN (May 10, 2000). "Luffa aegyptiaca information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?22788.
- A Legacy of Luffa, by Elizabeth Harwick, who grows Luffa aegyptiaca successfully in South Carolina.
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- Luffa aegyptiaca at Floridata
- Multilingual taxonomic information at the University of Melbourne
- Luffa aegyptiaca Picture
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