in warmer parts of north Africa and western Asia, the colocynth is
now naturalized in other parts of the world, sometimes in very arid
It is a completely prostrate plant, the stems radiating from a
tuberous, perennial rootstock.
The deeply lobed leaves are small, under 4 in (10 cm) long, and the
yellow and green striped fruits are only about 3 in (8 cm) in
The intensely bitter fruits yield a drastic purgative which when
taken to excess has sometimes proved fatal.
It is believed to be the wild gourd mentioned in the Bible.
Cultivation: Only the watermelon is generally cultivated in this
genus, grown in much the same way as pumpkins or cantaloupes.
They require a friable, well-manured soil with good drainage and a
long, warm growing season with plentiful irrigation—the longer and
hotter the summer the better the crop will be.
Watch for cucumber beetles.