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Overview

Brief Summary

Citrullus lanatus, watermelon, is an annual herbaceous plant in the squash family (Cucurbitaceae) that originated in subtropical Africa, was likely domesticated in the Mediterranean region and India, and is now cultivated in temperate to sub-tropical regions in Asia (from India through Southeast Asia to China), Japan, and North America for its large, juicy fruit.

C. lanatus is a monoecious vine, with branched tendrils, with deeply divided, hairy leaves; vines may grow to 2 meters in length. Flowers are yellow, 3-4 cm wide, with 5-parted corollas, and occur singly, in the axils (where leaves join stems). Fruits are known as pepos—a leathery rind covering soft juicy flesh, which ranges from red to pink to yellow, and containing many small hard dark-brown to black or occasionally tan seeds, although seedless varieties have been developed, in which seeds are mostly absent or small, soft, and white. Fruits are globose to oblong, with rinds that are light to dark green, or may be mottled or striped, and range in size from a 15 cm in diameter to 200+ cm in length (for oblong varieties). Fruits of typical varieties weigh from 4 to 14 kg (9 to 30 pounds), but the world’s heaviest recorded watermelon, grown in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in 2005, weighed 121.93 kg (268.8 lb), as noted in GuinnessWorldRecords.com, and was more than 1 meter long.

The watermelon fruit, which has a high amount of water and a relatively low proportion of sugars, with moderate amounts of vitamins B and C, is used primarily as a fresh fruit, and is popular among dieters for its low calorie content. In some locales, the rinds are used to make pickles or chutneys. The edible seeds, which are high in oils and protein (45% and 30-405, respectively), are sometimes harvested and used in similar ways to pumpkin seeds, toasted and eaten as a snack (especially popular in the Middle East), pressed for oil, or used as a home remedy to treat pinworms and tapeworms in humans and livestock.

Global production of watermelons in 2010 was 89.0 million metric tons,, harvested from 3.2 million hectares. China is by far the leading producer, responsible for 64% of the commercial harvest worldwide. Other leading producers include Turkey, Iran, Brazil, and the U.S.

(FAOSTAT 2012, Purdue 2003, van Wyk 2005.)

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Citrullus lanatus is a climbing or trailing herbaceous vine, with an enlarged pepo type fruit. This species is native to Southern Africa, with chief occurrences in the Kalahari Desert region.

With the familiar common name Watermelon, this species is also known by the name Creeping Tsamma Melon. The sizable pepo fruit has been useful as a food source to both animals and people for millennia.
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Comprehensive Description

Description

Annual herb with prostrate of climbing stems up to 10 m long, covered in long spreading hairs, particularly when young. Tendrils2-3-fid. Leaves more or less narrowly ovate in outline, up to 20 × 19 cm, usually deeply palmately 3-5 lobed with lobes elliptic in outline and often lobed again; hairy when young, particularly on the veins beneath, becoming roughly punctate when oleder; margins almost entire or obscurely and finely sinuate-dentate. Flowers solitary, axillary, yellow, unisexual on the same plant. Fruit smooth, in wild plants 1.5-20 cm long, greenish with darker mottling; cultivated fruits much larger and often more elongated ellipsoid, up to 60 × 30 cm.
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Derivation of specific name

lanatus: covered in soft, intertwined hairs, woolly or lanate.
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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Distribution: Species cultivated for its edible fruits. Spontaneous in sandy areas and on roadsides. Native to tropical Africa, but widely cultivated throughout the tropics.

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Worldwide distribution

Cultivated throughout the warmer regions of the world and sometimes adventive. Native to the Kalahari sand region, including Botswana, Zambia and Western Zimbabwe.
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Distribution: Native of the Kalahari region. Cultivated throughout Tropics. Found also as an escape.
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Africa; widely cultivated in Nepal and in tropical and warmer zones of Old and New World ('Water Melon').
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Annual, climber or trailer. Stem herbaceous, rather (softly long hairs) villous. Monoecious. Tendrils robust, pubescent, 2-3-fid. Petiole long-villous. Leaves ovate or elongated ovate in outline, lamina hirsute beneath, long-hispid on veins and veinlets; upper surface smooth with transluscent dots or scabrous, margin minutely denticulate, apparently smooth, deeply 3-5-lobed, lobes elon¬gated-ovate, obtuse, more or less pinnately sinuate lobulate (young leaves and shoots densely villous); probract obovate-spathulate, 8-10 mm long. Male flowers on c. 20(-40) mm long pedicel; calyx broadly campanulate, c. 7 mm long, lobes c. 5(3-5) mm long, lanceolate; petals yellow, 12(7-16) mm long, obovate-oblong, c. 4 mm broad. Female flowers on c. 6 cm long pedicels, calyx and corolla as in the male, ovary ellipsoid or subglobose, hairy. Fruit large, ellipsoid or subspherical, c. 30 cm or more in diameter, hairy, green mottled with paler green and yellowish more or less longitudinal stripes; mesocarp fleshy, red or yellow, rarely white; indehiscent. Seeds ovate in outline, c. 10 mm long, c. 5 mm broad, black or rarely red or of different shades, smooth or slightly verrucose.
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Diagnostic Description

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flower/Fruit

Fl. Per.: Jan.-May.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Citrullus lanatus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Citrullus lanatus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG, Folk medicine

Comments: The Mexicans make a decoction from the leaves for an antimalarial. In Puerto Rico, the ripe flesh of the fruit is used as a diuretic and a tonic and to alleviate bronchitis and pulmonary ailments. In Curaçao it is beleved that the rind placed on the forehead will relieve a headache. In Venezuela the rind is used as a poultice to treat "liver troubles." The Bahama residents boil the seeds to prepare a diuretic drink. In the Caicos Islands, the seeds are dried, parched, ground, steeped in water and the subsequent drink is used to treat urinary burning. The Chickasaw Indians of North America believe that the seeds are effective in treating urinary problems.

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Wikipedia

Citrullus lanatus

tsamma in the Kalahari Desert
Naturalized in Australia

Citrullus lanatus is a plant species in the family Cucurbitaceae, a vine-like (scrambler and trailer) flowering plant originally from southern Africa. It is cultivated for its fruit; cultivars include watermelons (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) var. lanatus) and citron melons (Citrullus lanatus var. citroides (L. H. Bailey) Mansf.).

Citrullus lanatus has become naturalized in semi-arid regions of several continents, and is designated as a "pest plant" in parts of Western Australia.[2]

Description[edit]

The species is an annual that has a prostrate or climbing habit. Stems are up to 3 metres long and new growth has yellow or brown hairs. Leaves are 60 to 200 mm long and 40 to 150 mm wide. These usually have 3 lobes which are themselves lobed or doubly lobed. Plants have both male and female flowers on 40 mm long hairy stalks. These are yellow, and greenish on the back.[3]

Taxonomy[edit]

The species was formally described by Carl Peter Thunberg in 1794 and given the name Momordica lanata.[4] It was reassigned to the genus Citrullus in 1916 by Japanese botanists Ninzo Matsumura and Takenoshin Nakai.[5]

Cultivar groups and varieties[edit]

A number of cultivar groups have been identified:[6]

  • Citroides Group

(syn. C. lanatus subsp. lanatus var. citroides; C. lanatus var. citroides; C. vulgaris var. citroides)[6]

The citron melon or makataan - a variety with sweet yellow flesh that is cultivated around the world for fodder, and the production of citron peel and pectin.[3]

  • Lanatus Group

(syn. C. lanatus var. caffer)[6]

The variety known as tsamma is grown for its juicy white flesh. The variety was an important food source for travellers in the Kalahari Desert.[3]

Another variety known as karkoer or bitterboela is unpalatable to humans, but the seeds may be eaten.[3]

A small-fruited form with a bumpy skin has caused poisoning in sheep.[3]

  • Vulgaris Group

(syn. C. lanatus var. lanatus and C. lanatus subsp. vulgaris var. vulgaris)[6]

The watermelon has been grown for human consumption for thousands of years.[3]

  • subsp. mucosospermus

West African variety with fruit cultivated for cattle feed.[3]


Additionally, there are wild forms that have bitter fruit containing cucurbitacin.[7]

The species is naturalized in all mainland states and territories of Australia where it is a weed of pasture, floodpains and river banks.[5][8] Common names in Australia include afghan melon, bastard melon, bitter melon, camel melon, pie melon and wild melon.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ Parsons, William Thomas; Cuthbertson, Eric George (2001). Noxious Weeds of Australia (2nd ed.). Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing. pp. 407–408. ISBN 0643065148. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai". South Africa National Biodiversity Institute. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Momordica lanata Thunb.". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government, Canberra. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government, Canberra. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Porcher, Michel H. "Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database". Sorting Citrullus names. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  7. ^ "Citrullus lanatus (watermelon)". Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew). Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Weeds of Australia - Biosecurity Queensland Edition". Queensland Government. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Exotic in North America (Kartesz, 1999).

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