Trichosanthes tricuspidata (Bitter Snake Gourd)

Scientific Name

Trichosanthes tricuspidata Lour.

Common Names

Bitter Snake Gourd

Synonyms

Involucraria cucumerina, Involucraria modecca, Involucraria wightiana, Modecca bracteata, Trichosanthes bracteata, Trichosanthes puber

Scientific Classification

Family: Cucurbitaceae
Tribe: Sicyoeae
Genus: Trichosanthes

Flower

Color: White
Bloom Time: May to April

Description

Trichosanthes tricuspidata is a large climber with a strong woody and grooved stem with trailing branches. It grows up to 65 feet (20 m) long. Tendrils are divided into 2 to 3 parts. Leaves are up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) across, broadly heart-shaped, but palmately 3 to 5 lobed. The leaf margins are toothed. Flowers occur either singly or in 5 to 10 flowered racemes in leaf axils. The sepal cup is tubular and up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long. The flowers are white, up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, with five wedge-shaped petals with frilly margins. Fruits are spherical, up to 2 inches (5 cm) across, red when ripe, streaked with ten orange streaks.

Trichosanthes tricuspidata - Bitter Snake Gourd
Photo via valleyofflowers.info

Hardiness

It is grown as an annual plant, so it has no USDA hardiness zone.

How to Grow and Care

First of all, Snake Gourds need a trellis or something that they can grow up — an arbor, chain link fence, etc. Make sure the structure is sturdy due to the weight of the large gourds. Start the seeds indoors early after soaking overnight to increase germination time. Transplant outside much as you would bean plants in well-mixed organic matter and topsoil.

Seeds can be saved for the following season but toss out any light-colored or white seeds. Keep and plant many more seeds than you think you may need, as the germination rate is only about 60 percent.

Snake Gourd care is similar to that of most other gourds. Prune the plant's lateral branches to increase fruit set and production. Some people tie a pebble or other weight to the flower end of the gourd to foster a straighter fruit, but this is just for aesthetics. There is no need to do so.

Harvest Snake Gourds when young, around 40 to 50 days from planting. The long varietals may then be ready when only 16 to 18 inches, while the shorter cultivars will be about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in length. See more at How to Grow and Care for Snake Gourd Plant.

Origin

Native to Himalayas, India, east to China, Japan, Malaysia, and Tropical Australia.

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