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).
Derivation of specific name
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Distribution: Native to the paleotropics, cultivated, escaped, or naturalized, in disturbed areas along roads and moist forest margins in central Puerto Rico. Also on St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas. Cultivated throughout the tropics and subtropics.
Paleotropics, often cultivated
State - Kerala, District/s: All Districts"
Luffa aegyptiaca Miller, Gard. Dict. ed. 8. 1768.
Synonym: Luffa cilindrica M. Roem.
Herbaceous vine, monoecious, climbing by axillary tendrils, attaining 10 m in length. Stems green, slender, subcylindrical or angular, ribbed, glabrous or puberulous; tendrils trifid. Leaves alternate; blades 11-25 (35) × 7-25 (32) cm, 3-7-palmatilobed, chartaceous, the lobes lanceolate or ovate, the apices acute or acuminate, the base cordiform, the margins entire or serrate; upper surface scabrid; lower surface pale green, scabrid; petioles as long as or longer than the blade. Flowers unisexual, actinomorphic. Calyx green, campanulate, the lobes 12-15 mm long, lanceolate; corolla pale yellow, 2.5-4.5 cm long, the lobes ovate, obtuse. Staminate flowers in racemes 12-15 cm long; stamens 5, not exserted, the filaments free, 3-4 m long, villous. Pistillate flowers solitary, with a hypanthium ca. 3 cm long; ovary inferior, tricarpellate, ellipsoid, with numerous horizontal ovules, the style short, the stigmas globose. Fruit trigonal, slightly sulcate, 20-45 cm long, the pericarp crustose, dehiscent by apical pores, the mesocarp forming a network of fibers; seeds numerous, elliptical, 10-13 mm long, black, smooth.
Phenology: Flowering from November to January and fruiting in January and from July to August.
Status: Exotic, cultivated and naturalized, uncommon.
Selected Specimens Examined: Acevedo-Rdgz., P. 4066; 7231; Goll, G.P. 829; Heller, A.A. 370; Sintenis, P. 716; 3174; Stevenson, J.A. 342.
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Luffa aegyptiaca
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Luffa aegyptiaca
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Luffa aegyptiaca (=Luffa cylindrica), aka Egyptian cucumber, aka Vietnamese luffa, is a species of Luffa grown for its fruit. In English, luffa is also spelled loofah. The plant is an annual vine, native to South Asia and Southeast Asia. The about-30-cm-long fruit resembles a cucumber and the young fruit is eaten likewise 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 inedible, and is used to make scrubbing bath sponges. Due to the use 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 (Luffa acutangula), which is used for the same purposes.
Due to its big yellow flowers, Luffa aegyptiaca is occasionally grown as an ornamental.
Luffa aegyptiaca is best grown with a trellis support. It requires lots of heat and lots of water to thrive. In Vietnam, its native habitat, it is called mướp hương. Its botanical specific epithet "aegyptiaca" was given to it because in the 16th century European botanists were introduced to the plant from its cultivation in Egypt. In the European botanical literature, the plant was first described by Johann Veslingius in 1638, who called it "Egyptian Cucumber".
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||56 kJ (13 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||2.9 g|
|Vitamin A||260 IU|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.|
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
- GRIN (May 10, 2000). "Luffa aegyptiaca information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants.
- A Legacy of Luffa, by Elizabeth Harwick, who grows Luffa aegyptiaca successfully in South Carolina.
- De Plantis Aegyptiis, by Johann Veslingius, year 1638 page 48 (in Latin). Veslingius was also introducer of the name "Luffa"; more info at Luffa.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Luffa aegyptiaca.|
- Luffa aegyptiaca at Floridata
- Multilingual taxonomic information at the University of Melbourne
- Luffa.info: Info on growing and using Luffa egyptiaca as a scrubbing sponge]
- Dressler, S.; Schmidt, M. & Zizka, G. (2014). "Luffa aegyptiaca". African plants – a Photo Guide. Frankfurt/Main: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg.
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