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Annual or perennial (in wild) herbaceous vine; stems angular and rough; leaves rough, are angular 3- to 7-lobed, 5-10 cm long, middle lobe sometimes ovate, sinuses open; The flowers are yellow, long-peduncled, and solitary in the axils of the leaves. They are monecious, the stamens and pistils being borne in different flowers on the same plant. Each has a yellow campanulate, five-lobed corolla and a five-parted calyx. The female flowers are readily distinguished by a globose, hairy, inferior ovary; fruit a pepo, nearly globular, 4-10 cm in diameter with somewhat elliptical fissures, about size of small orange, green and yellow variegated becoming yellow when ripe, with hard rind, pulp light in weight, spongy, easily broken, light yellowish-orange to pale yellow; intensely bitter; seeds numerous, ovoid, compressed, smooth, dark brown to light yellowish-orange, borne on parietal placenta.. It is filled with a soft, white pulp, in which are imbedded numerous seed .This pulp is the article used in medicine,

The colocynth plant is a native of arid soils. It has a large, fleshy perennial root, which sends out slender, tough, angular, scabrid vine-like stems. These usually lie on the ground for want of something to climb over, but which, if opportunity present, climb over shrubs and herbs by means of axiliary branching tendrils.


Cultivated and naturalized in North Africa and India. The colocynth plant occupies the vast area extending from the west coast of northern Africa (Senegambia, Morocco and the Cape Verde islands), eastward through the Sahara, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Beluchistan and through India, as far as the Coromandel coast and Ceylon, touching northward the Mediterranean and Caspian seas. At the Red sea, near Kosseir, it occurs in immense quantities. It is also found here and there in southern European countries, e. g., Spain and the islands of the Grecian archipelago. Cultivation on a small scale in the island of Cyprus the raising of colocynth has been a source of revenue since the fourteenth century, and still forms an article of export at the present time.

Ecological Requirements:

Ranging from Cool Temperate Moist through Tropical Desert to Wet Forest Life Zones, colocynth is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 250mm to 1500 mm, annual temperature of 14.8 to 27.8C, and pH of 5.0 to 7.8. A highly xerophytic plant, it thrives where mean annual temperature is from 23-27C and annual rainfall ranges from 25-37 cm. it is relatively tolerant of drought and poor soils, and responds well to irrigation and fertilization.

It is found wild in the warm, arid and sandy parts throughout India, up to 1,500 m. It is most abundant in north- western plains of India, especially in the Barmer, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur districts of Rajasthan, and in Gujarat. Thrives on sandy loam, sub desert soils, and along sandy sea coasts.

Biophysical Limits:

Elevation range lower: sea level upper: about 1,500 m (4,921 ft)
Mean annual rainfall lower: 250 mm (10 in) upper: 4,000 mm (160 in)
Rainfall pattern a crop adapted to arid zones
Dry season duration (consecutive months with <40 mm [1.6 in] rainfall) a desert plant, giving evidence of the dominion of life even in such arid regions
Mean annual temperature lower: 15°C upper: 48°C

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