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.)
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.
Derivation of specific name
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Distribution: Species cultivated for its edible fruits. Spontaneous in sandy areas and on roadsides. Native to tropical Africa, but widely cultivated throughout the tropics.
Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai, Cat. Sem. Spor. Hort. Bot. Univ. Imp. Tokyo 30, no. 854. 1916.
Basionym: Momordica lanata Thunb.
Synonym: Cucurbita citrullus L.
Creeping or climbing herbaceous vine, with axillary tendrils, attaining 1.5-3 m in length. Stems green, sulcate, pilose or lanate, glabrous when mature; tendrils with 2-5 branches, 15 cm long or longer. Leaves alternate; blades 6-16 × 3-11 cm, ovate-triangular in outline, deeply 3-5-pinnatifid-lobed, membranaceous, the lobes oblong or ovate, lobate, obtuse or rounded at the apex, the base cordiform or reniform, the margins undulate or irregularly dentate; upper surface lanate-pubescent; lower surface light green, dull, with the reticulate venation prominent, puberulous, scabrous in mature leaves; petioles lanate-pubescent, 1-11 cm long. Staminate and pistillate flowers of similar size, solitary; peduncles 2-4 cm long, pubescent. Hypanthium villous. Calyx green, campanulate, ca. 1 cm long, villous, lobes linear-lanceolate, 3-4 mm long; corolla yellow or greenish yellow, campanulate, 1-1.5 cm long, villous outside, limb ca. 2.3 cm in diameter, the lobes deep. Berry globose or cylindrical, up to 40 cm long, green, mottled or with light green lines, the endocarp thick, pink, white, or yellowish; seeds numerous, elliptical, 5-10 mm long.
Phenology: Collected in flower in November and in March.
Status: Exotic, cultivated or spontaneous, uncommon.
Selected Specimens Examined: Acevedo-Rdgz., P. 9347.
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Citrullus lanatus
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Citrullus lanatus
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Leaf and Seed: In French Guiana, an emulsion of seeds and crushed leaves makes an excellent cataplasm applied warm for intestinal inflammation. Fruit: Pulp is refreshing; juice used as a refreshing wash.
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.
Citrullus lanatus is a plant species in the family Cucurbitaceae, a vine-like (scrambler and trailer) flowering plant originally from West Africa. It is cultivated for its fruit. The subdivision of this species into two cultivars watermelons (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) var. lanatus) and citron melons (Citrullus lanatus var. citroides (L. H. Bailey) Mansf.), originated with the erroneous synonymization of Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai and Citrullus vulgaris Schrad. by L.H.Bailey in 1930. Molecular data including sequences from the original collection of Thunberg and other relevant type material, show that the sweet dessert water melon (Citrullus vulgaris Schrad.) and the bitter wooly melon Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai are not closely related to each other. Since 1930, thousands of papers have misapplied the name Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai for the dessert watermelon, and a proposal has therefore been submitted to conserve the name with this meaning.
The dessert watermelon 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.
The bitter wooly melon was formally described by Carl Peter Thunberg in 1794 and given the name Momordica lanata. It was reassigned to the genus Citrullus in 1916 by Japanese botanists Ninzo Matsumura and Takenoshin Nakai.
The sweet dessert melon was formally described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 and given the name Cucurbita citrullus. It was reassigned to the genus Citrullus in 1836 by the German botanist Heinrich Adolf Schrader.
The bitter wooly melon is the sister species of Citrullus ecirrhosus Cogn. from South African arid regions, while the sweet dessert melon is the sister species of mucosospermus (Fursa) Fursa from West Africa.
Cultivar groups and varieties
A number of cultivar groups have been identified:
- Citroides Group
(syn. C. lanatus subsp. lanatus var. citroides; C. lanatus var. citroides; C. vulgaris var. citroides)
DNA data reveal that lanatus var. citroides Bailey is the same as Thunberg's bitter wooly melon, C. lanatus and also the same as C. amarus Schrad. It is not a form of the sweet dessert melon C. vulgaris and not closely related to that species.
- Lanatus Group
(syn. C. lanatus var. caffer)
C. caffer Schrad. is a synonym of C. amarus Schrad.
Another variety known as karkoer or bitterboela is unpalatable to humans, but the seeds may be eaten.
A small-fruited form with a bumpy skin has caused poisoning in sheep.
- Vulgaris Group
- 'mucosospermus (Fursa) Fursa
This West African species is the closest wild relative of the dessert watermelon. It is cultivated for cattle feed.
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved April 16, 2014.
- Bailey LH. 1930. Three discussions in Cucurbitaceae. Gentes Herbarum 2: 175–186.
- Chomicki, G., and S. S. Renner (2014). "Watermelon origin solved with molecular phylogenetics including Linnaean material: Another example of museomics". New Phytologist. doi:10.1111/nph.13163.
- Renner, S. S., G. Chomicki, and W. Greuter (2014). "Proposal to conserve the name Momordica lanata (Citrullus lanatus) (watermelon, Cucurbitaceae), with a conserved type, against Citrullus battich". Taxon 63 (4): 941–942. doi:10.12705/634.29.
- 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.
- "Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai". South Africa National Biodiversity Institute. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- "Momordica lanata Thunb.". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government, Canberra. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- "Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government, Canberra. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- Porcher, Michel H. "Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database". Sorting Citrullus names. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- "Citrullus lanatus (watermelon)". Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew). Retrieved 17 October 2013.
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French Guiana: melon d'eau, pasteque. Guyana: watermelon. Surinam: watermeloen. Surinam Javan: semangka. Surinam Arawak: patja.
Names and Taxonomy
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