Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Cucumis althaeoides (Ser.) P.Sebastian & I.Telford

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
Slender Vine
Click/tap on images to enlarge
Leaf and flower. © K.R. McDonald
Flower. © G. Sankowsky
Immature fruit. © G. Sankowsky
Mature fruit. © G. Sankowsky
Leaves and fruits. © CSIRO
Habit. © G. Sankowsky
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO

Telford, I.R.H., Sebastian, P., Bruhl, J.J. & Renner, S.S. (2011) Systematic Botany 36(2): 385.


A slender trailing or climbing perennial herb, most parts hispid; stems ribbed, to 3 m long x 1.6 mm diameter. Tendrils simple unbranched, +/- leaf-opposed, straight for some distance (4-12 mm) and then tightly coiled, to 15 cm long.


Leaf blades ovate to broadly lanceolate in outline, sometimes hastate, about 2.4-7.5 x 1.8-7 cm, petioles about nearly absent to 4.5 cm long. Both the upper and lower leaf blade surfaces clothed in curved hairs, each hair with a swollen base. Similar hairs are also present on the petioles and twigs.


Inflorescences unisexual. Male flowers: borne in fascicles or racemes of 3-10(-15) flowers; flowers about 4-5 mm diam; calyx tube (hypanthium) about 3 mm long, lobes linear about 0.8-1.4 mm long; corolla lobes ovate about 3.8-4.2 mm long; stamens 3, two stamens with 2-locular anthers and one stamen with a unilocular anther; stamens inserted about middle of hypanthium tube. Female flowers: 1 or 2, rarely 3 or 4 per axil; pedicels to 2 mm; ovary ca. 3 mm long, hairy; ovules few; base of the style surrounded by an annular disk.


Fruits globose, about 8-18 mm diam., when immature pale green with longitudinal markings, red when ripe and sparsely clothed in white hairs; pedicels hairy, about 6 mm long; seeds about 9-20(-25) per fruit, each seed 3.8-4.5 x 2.3-3 mm, ovate. Testa verrucose, clothed in a thin translucent aril; cotyledons about 3.5-5 x 2 mm; radicle about 0.8-1 mm long.


Features not available.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as north-eastern New South Wales. Altitudinal range in northern Australia from near sea level to 500 m. Usually grows in open forest, sometimes in beach forest, vine thicket or monsoon forest. Also occurs in Timor and New Guinea.

Natural History & Notes

This taxon was previously referred to as Cucumis maderaspatanus L.


Bryonia althaeoides Ser., Prodromus Systematis Naturalis Regni Vegetabilis 3: 306 (1828), Type: Timor. leg. ign. (holotype: G-DC, photograph). Mukia althaeoides (Ser.) M.Roem., Familiarum Naturalium Regni Vegetabilis Synopses Monographicae 2: 47 (1846).  Melothria althaeoides (Ser.) Nakai, Journal of Japanese Botany 38: 127(1938).


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