Plants photographed on Kyffhäuser
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Cucumis africanus L.f.

Cucumis africanus

Fruit and leaves

Family: Curcurbitaceae
Full name: Cucumis africanus L.f.
Location: Kyffhäuser (2416AD + 2416CB)
ID status: Fairly certain
Afrikaans common name(s): Springbokkomkommer, Doringkomkommer, Bitterappel, Agurkie, Afrikaanse komkommer, Wilde komkommer
English common name(s): Wild cucumber, Bitter apple, Small wild cucumber, Thorn cucumber
Synonym(s): Cucumis arenarius Schrad. - non Schumach. & Thonn.-- nom.illegit.
Cucumis hookeri Naudin
Status: Native
Description: Annual, green, scabrous everywhere; branches angulate; leaves deeply 3- or 5- lobed, lobes entire or sublobed, denticulate, as well as the sinus rotundate, middle lobe obovate, longer than the lateral ones; ovary oblong, muricate-echinate, on a slender peduncle; pepo ovoid, densely beset with short, but sharp spines. Stem much branched. Leaves on longish petioles, in var. a. 1.25–1.75 inch long, 1–1.5 inch wide, the upper smaller; in var. ß. 1.5–2.5 inches long, and very similar to those of C. Anguria, L. Male flowers fascicled, very small, much shorter than the hispid petiole; female flowers on longer peduncles. Fruit 1.5 inch long, 0.75 or nearly 1 inch broad. Spines 2 lines long; the ripe fruit sometimes denudate or only tubercled by the remaining base of the spines. Seeds nearly 2 lines long. C. arenarius, Schrad.! E. & Z.! 1795, founded on a single specimen, is a depauperated state of C. africanus. C. arenarius, Arn. and Planch. in herb. Hook. is C. myriocarpus, Naud. C. arenarius, Schum. and Thom.! is a quite different plant; the branches are hispid, tendrils very long, leaves about 2 inches long, 15 lines broad, bluntish-5-lobed, the ovate middle lobe 1 inch long, the four lateral ones short but equal; the whole leaf on both sides subsilky by appressed hairs, a little hispid on the nerves beneath; flowers very small, fascicled and short peduncles, the tube hirsute; the fruit unknown. N. 4919 of Drege's collection has some resemblance to this, but the flowers are much larger, the tendrils very short, and the branches pubescent. (from JSTOR Global Plants website / Flora Capensis)

Annual or perhaps sometimes perennial, or at least sometimes developing a woody rootstock; stems prostrate or scandent, to c. 1 m, patent-setulose or deflexed-setulose, becoming scabrid and developing a thin pallid bark when old. Leaf-lamina 1.6–8.2 x 1.8–7 cm, ovate in outline, cordate, shortly sparsely scabrid-setulose above, densely so beneath, becoming scabrid-punctate, more or less sinuate-denticulate, deeply palmately (3)5-lobed, lobes elliptic, broadly elliptic or ovate-elliptic, obtuse to rounded, shortly acuminate, apiculate, sometimes 3-lobulate, the central largest. Petiole 1.1–6 cm long, antrorsely or patently scabrid-setulose. Flowers monoecious. male flowers solitary or usually 2–5 in small fascicles; pedicels 2–9 mm long. Receptacle-tube 3–5 mm long; lobes 1.5–3 mm long. Petals 5–11 mm long, bright yellow. female flowers solitary; pedicel 10–40 mm long; ovary 8–15 x 3–5 mm, ellipsoid or oblong-ellipsoid, densely softly spiny; perianth similar to that of male flower. Fruit 3.2–6(9) x 1.8–3.3(4.5) cm, ellipsoid to oblong-ellipsoid, rounded at the ends, more or less densely spiny, when ripe strongly striped pale greenish-white and purplish-brown; spines 3–6 mm long, longitudinally compressed; fruit-stalk 2–4.5 cm long, slender, not expanded upwards. Seeds 4–7 x 2–3.8 x 1.1–2 mm, elliptic in outline, compressed. (from JSTOR Global Plants website / Flora Zambesiaca)

Roots: Often with a large, woody, thickened taproot, allowing it to produce large amounts of fruit even in very arid conditions. Stems: The stems are annual and up to more than 2 m long (but can grow to a length 50 m), finely ridged and roughly whitish hairy. The are usually prostrate, but will climb on bushes and other support with the aid of simple tendrils. Cut twigs exude a clear sap. (Welman, 2005) Leaves: The leaves are alternate and simple; stipules are absent. The lamina is ovate, deeply palmately (3–)5-lobed, 16–82 mm x 18–70 mm in size; cordate at the base, with the lobes elliptical, broadly elliptical to ovate-elliptical. (Bosch, 2004) The leaves are dull green and roughly hairy on both sides with bulbous-based hairs; crushed leaves are non-aromatic. The leaf stalks (petioles are finely ridged and roughly hairy, usually 10 - 15 mm long, but can be up to 80 mm long. The tendrils are simple. (Welman, 2005) Flowers: The plants are monoecious and the flowers unisexual, regular and 5-merous. The receptacle is 3 – 5 mm long and the sepals 1.5 – 3 mm. The petals are bright yellow with green veins and 5 – 11 mm long. (Bosch, 2004) The male flowers are fascicled (with 1-5 flowers in small fascicles), rarely solitary; the pedicel is up to 10 mm long. The calyx is 5-lobed with the tube campanulate and the lobes long-linear. The corolla is 5-partite, yellow and veined, with the lobes oblong. The stamens are 3 with the filaments free, linear-oblong and short; the anthers are free or cohering, with one anther 1-thecous and others 2-thecous; the thecae are bent, rarely straight. The pistil is rudimentary. (Dyer, 1975) The female flowers are usually solitary, rarely fasciculate with the pedicel 10 - 40 mm long. The calyx and corolla are as in the male flowers. Three staminodes are often present. The ovary is inferior, ovoid to subcylindrical and tubercled with dense soft spines; with 3-5 placentas and many ovules. The styles are short, surrounded at the base by a cup-like structure and the stigmas are 3-5(6). (Dyer, 1975) Fruits: The fruit is a fleshy, indehiscent and many-seeded berry, with the pericarp tubercled (Dyer, 1975). The fruit is ellipsoid to oblong-ellipsoid and 30–90 mm x 20–45 mm in size. When ripe it is strongly longitudinally striped pale greenish-white and purplish-brown, with the spines 3–6 mm long. The fruit stalk is 20 – 45 mm long, slender and not expanded upwards. (Bosch, 2004) A plant will bear either sweet or bitter fruit and up to 120 per runner in years of good rainfall (Van der Walt & Le Riche, 1999). Seeds: The seeds are cream-coloured, ellipsoid, compressed; 4–7 mm x 2–3.8 mm x 1–1.2 mm (Bosch, 2004). (from Ecoport website)

Link(s) African Plant Database
JSTOR Plant Science
Kew Herbarium Catalogue
BGBM Berlin-Dahlem - Virtual Herbarium
Züricher Herbarien
iNaturalist (Namibia / Alex Dreyer)
iNaturalist (Namibia)
iNaturalist (southern Africa)
Flora of Zimbabwe
Fleurs de notre Terre - Galerie Namibie
Tree Atlas of Namibia
Photographer: AA Dreyer
Date of photograph: 19 Mar 2007
Camera make: Canon
Camera model: PowerShot A700
Lens aperture: f/4.0
Shutter speed: 1/800 s
ISO speed: -
Content last updated: 03 Oct 2022

Note: The identification of some of the plants on this website is not 100% certain. Any comments will be highly appreciated. I would also be willing to supply higher resolution images upon request. Please contact me at the e-mail address given below.

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