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October 2001. A photo of a weed, a member of the Cucurbitaceae, was from Kosrae, FSM, and it looks very invasive. The flower is yellow and about 2 to 3 cm and the fruit is about 5 to 8 cm in length. The fruit has a smooth skin. By contrast, the fruit of Momordica charantia has a ridged and warty skin.
There were several suggestions, with Luffa cylindrica as most likely:
1. Luffa cylindrica, which may be native there (questionably native in Samoa and Tonga). The big-fruited species is the “loofa” or vegetable sponge. However, the developing young ovaries of Luffa are more elongated than the one in the photo. It ris similar to varieties of squash planted in Palau by Filipino workers. One variety is called “patola,”. These squashes are very vigorous and could conceivably escape from cultivation.
According to the University of Guam, “Patola” is the local name for the long loofa gourds, and are eaten young, as vegetables. The vine in question has a much smaller, and round fruit, as pictured, and is also called “patola” locally. It also has a “loofa sponge-like” inner skeleton. I wonder if it is a different species. It is heavily attacked by the cucumber beetle, Aulocophora quadrimaculata, while the long, “patola” gourd seems to be avoided by the beetle. It could be a close relative of L. cylindrica. Dr. Lynne Raulerson, at the University of Guam, could be contacted: [email protected].
Ethnobotanists have collected the plant on Pohnpei where it is called “sel lap”, and identified it as Luffa cylindrica. It grows wild on Pohnpei and probably does the same on Kosrae. Locally, the pounded leaf extract is used to lower fever in children. It’s also used to tie the taro leaf on the front pillar in the traditional feast house during a feast to “shield” the high chiefs from the smoke of the “uhmw”, and is used to “cleanse” the sakau cup, if it is acidently dropped during a feast.
2. Bitter-Melon, Momordica charantia. This is a widespread weed of tropical Asia and the Pacific Islands, and present in Guam. The fruit looks wrong for Momordica charantia; see the description from PIER: http://www.hear.org/pier/mocha.htm: Herbaceous, slender climber with slightly pubescent stems and leaves; petiole = blade; leaves to 10-12 cm long, palmately 5-7-lobed; the lobes ?? sinuate-dentate; flowers yellow; peduncle with a reniform bracteole; corolla 1.5-2 cm long; fruit obovoid or oblong-cylindric, coarsely ridged and bumpy-tuberculate, to 20 cm. There are several pics that show a spiky fruit quite unlike the picture.
3. Benincasa hispida was also mentioned as a possibility.