Momordica L. – bitter gourds
Momordica L., Sp. Pl. 1009. 1753. Type (lectotype): Momordica charantia L., Sp. Pl. 2: 1009. 1753. [design. Green 1929].
Zucca Commers. ex Juss., Gen. 398. 1789.
Muricia Lour., Fl. Cochinch. II: 596. 1790.
Neurosperma Raf., Amer. Monthly Magaz. 40. 1818. (‚Nevrosperma‚)
Neurospermum Bartl., Ord. 275. 1830.
Dimorphochlamys Hook. f., Gen. Pl. 1: 827. 1867.
Raphanocarpus Hook. f., Ic. Pl. 11: 67. 1871.
Raphanistrocarpus (Baill.) E. G. O. Müll. & Pax, Nat. Pflanzenfam. 4(5): 22, 25. 1889.
Eulenburgia Pax, Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 39: 654. 1907.
Kedrostis Medik. sect. Gilgina Cogn. in Engler & Prantl 4. 275 (1): 155. 1916.
Calpidosicyos Harms, Notizbl. Bot. Gart. Berlin-Dahlem 8: 480. 1923.
Kedrostis Medik. subgen. Gilgina (Cogn.) A. Meeuse, Bothalia 8: 25. 1962.

Mainly perennial climbers (up to 15 m long) with monoecious or dioecious flowers, rarely small shrubs, with fibrous or woody, sometimes tuberous and greatly enlarged root or rootstock. The leaves are simple, petiolate (rarely sessile), entire or pedately 3-7-15-foliolate, often with discoidal glands/nectaries. The tendrils are simple or apically 2-fid (in M. spinosa paired at the nodes and spinose). The probracts are absent or sessile and orbicular. Male flowers are solitary or in umbels, racemes, fascicles or pseudopanicles, usually subtended by a prominent, ± orbicular sheathing bract. Female flowers are always solitary. The flowers are composed of a short, broad, ± campanulate receptacle-tube, five entire sepals and a rotate, campanulate-urceolate or zygomorphic corolla with five free petals. Flowers are white, yellow, cream-coloured or greenish, usually with a black center, and 1-3 of the petals with an incurved scale at the base, which covers oil producing glands. The male flowers contain 2 or 3 stamens with free filaments, inserted in the lower half of the tube. Two anthers are bithecous, one monothecous or one trithecous and the other bithecous. The thecae are arcuate, duplicate or triplicate. The pollen is medium-sized (polar axis 65-73 µm, equatorial axis 68-79 µm), 3-colporate and reticulate (Keraudren 1968, Khunwasi 1998). The female flowers contain a smooth, ribbed, tuberculate or papillose ovary surrounded by ficve staminodes. The ovary contains few to many ovules, oriented horizontal or pendent or erect. The stigma is three-lobed. The fleshy or rarely dry fruit is of variable size, the shape fusiform or ovoid-ellipsoid or globose, with spiny, tuberculate, winged or ridged surface, indehiscent or dehiscent by three valves or irregularly. Each fruit contains usually several medium-sized to large, subglobose to compressed seeds, yellow, brown or black in colour, often with white, yellow or red arilloid. The testa is smooth or variously sculptured, the margin often grooved. Germination of the seeds is epigeous or hypogeous (Zimmermann 1922, Schaefer unpubl.). Chromosome number n = 11 or 14 (Beevy and Kuriachan 1996).
With more than 50 species, this is one of the largest genera of the family. Its diversity hotspot is subsaharan Africa with about 40 species, a few species also in Arabia, (sub)tropical Asia, Malesia and Northeastern Australia. Two species, M. charantia L. and M. balsamina L., are naturalized in the Americas and most of the Pacific islands. Momordica charantia is cultivated for its edible fruits throughout the (sub)tropical regions of the world. The habitat of bittergourds includes tropical rainforest, deciduous forest and bushland, savannah and semi-deserts. Bittegourds are hosts of the fungi Puccinia cucumeris Henn., P. vanderystii Henn. and P. momordicae Kalchbr. and Cooke (Berndt 2007). Most of the species produce floral oils which are collected by specialized oilbees of the genus Ctenoplectra (Vogel 1990).

Accepted species

Momordica angolensis R. Fernandes, Bol. Soc. Brot., ser. 2, 33: 190. 1959.
Momordica angustisepala Harms, Bot. Jahrb. 58: 239. 1923.
Momordica anigosantha Hook. f. in D. Oliver, Fl. Trop. Afr. 2: 536. 1871.
Momordica argillicola Thulin, Kew Bull. 64: 487. 2009.
Momordica balsamina L., Sp. Pl.: 1009. 1753.
Momordica boivinii Baill., Hist. Pl. 8: 407, t. 289-291. 1886.
Momordica breteleri H.Schaef., Flore du Gabon 57: 76. 2021.
Momordica cabraei (Cogn.) C. Jeffrey, Kew Bull. 15: 356. 1962.
Momordica calantha Gilg, Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 34: 351. 1904.
Momordica camerounensis Keraudren, Adansonia, sér. 2, 7(2): 189. 1967.
Momordica cardiospermoides Klotzsch in Peters, Reise Mossamb. Bot. 1: 150. 1861.
Momordica charantia L., Sp. Pl.: 1009. 1753.
Momordica cissoides Planch. ex Benth. in Hook., Niger Fl.: 370. 1849.
Momordica clarkeana King, Mat. Fl. Malay Penins. in J. Asiat. Soc. Bengal 67: 35. 1898.
Momordica cochinchinensis (Lour.) Spreng., Syst. Veg. 3: 14. 1826.
Momordica corymbifera Hook. f. in D. Oliver, Fl. Trop. Afr. 2: 539.
Momordica cymbalaria Hook. f. in D. Oliver, Fl. Trop. Afr. 2: 540. 1871.
Momordica dissecta Baker, Kew Bull. 1895: 315.
Momordica denticulata Miq., Fl. Ind. Bat. 1, 1: 1090. 1858.
Momordica denudata (Thwaites) C. B. Clarke in Hook. f., Fl. Brit. India 2: 618. 1879.
Momordica dioica Roxb. ex Willd., Sp. Pl. 4: 605. 1805.
Momordica enneaphylla Cogn., Bull. Acad. Belg., sér. 3, 16: 238. 1888.
Momordica foetida Schum. in Schum. & Thonn., Beskr. Guin. Pl.: 426. 1827.
Momordica friesiorum (Harms) C. Jeffrey, Kew Bull. 15 (3): 356. 1962.
Momordica gilgiana Cogn., Bull. Jard. Bot. Brux. 4: 221. 1914.
Momordica glabra A. Zimm., Cucurbitaceae 2: 182. 1922.
Momordica henriquesii Cogn., Bol. Soc. Brot. 7: 228. 1889.
Momordica humilis (Cogn.) C. Jeffrey, Kew Bull. 15: 356. 1962.
Momordica jeffreyana Keraudren, Adansonia, sér. 2, 7(2): 187. 1967.
Momordica kirkii (Hook. f.) C. Jeffrey, Kew. Bull. 15: 357. 1962.
Momordica leiocarpa Gilg in Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 34: 351. 1904.
Momordica littorea Thulin, Nord. J. Bot. 11(4): 425-426. 1991.
Momordica macrophylla Gage, Rec. Bot. Surv. India 3: 61. 1908.
Momordica macrosperma (Cogn.) Chiov. Fl. Somala 182. 1929.
Momordica mossambica H. Schaef. Nord. J. Bot. 360. 2009.
Momordica multiflora Hook. f. in D. Oliver, Fl. Trop. Afr. 2: 540. 1871.
Momordica obtusisepala Keraudren, Adansonia, sér. 2, 7(2): 194. 1967.
Momordica parvifolia Cogn., Bull. Jard. Bot. Brux. 5(2): 110. 1916.
Momordica peteri A. Zimm. Cucurbitaceae 2: 182. 1922.
Momordica pterocarpa Hochst. ex A. Rich., Tent. Fl. Abyss. 1: 292. 1847.
Momordica renigera Wall. ex G. Don, Gen. Hist. 3: 36. 1834.
Momordica repens Bremek. 1933. Ann. Transvaal Mus. 15: 261.
Momordica rostrata A. Zimm., Cucurbitaceae 2: 183, figs. 64/4, 83/1. 1922.
Momordica sessilifolia Cogn., Bull. Herb. Boiss. 4: 821. 1896.
Momordica silvatica Jongkind, Blumea 47: 343-344. 2002.
Momordica sphaeroidea Blanco, Fl. Filip.: 771. 1837.
Momordica spinosa (Gilg) Chiov., Result. Sc. Miss. Stefan.-Paoli Somal. Ital. 1: 82. 1916.
Momordica subangulata Blume, Bijdr. Fl. Ned. Ind.: 928. 1826.
Momordica suringarii Cogn. in DC., Monogr. Phan. 3: 434. 1881.
Momordica trifolia L. in Stickman, Herb. Amb.: 24. 1754.
Momordica trifoliolata Hook. f. in D. Oliver, Fl. Trop. Afr. 2: 537. 1871.
Momordica welwitschii Hook. f. in D. Oliver, Fl. Trop. Afr. 2: 538. 1871.



Beevy, S.S., Kuriachan, P. 1996. Chromosome numbers of South Indian Cucurbitaceae and a note on the cytological evolution in the family. J. Cytol. Genet. 31: 65–71.

Berndt, R. 2007. A global survey of Puccinia-rust on Cucurbitaceae. Mycol. Progress 6: 151–178.

Keraudren, M. 1968. Recherches sur les cucurbitacées de Madagascar. Mem. Mus. Hist. Nat. B. 16(2): 122-330.

Khunwasi C. 1998. Palynology of the Cucurbitaceae. Doctoral Dissertation Naturwiss. Fak., University of Innsbruck.

Mahatmanto, T., Mylne, J.S., Poth, A.G., Swedberg, J.E., Kaas, Q., Schaefer, H. and D.J. Craik. 2015. The Evolution of Momordica cyclic peptides. Molecular Biology and Evolution 32: 392–405.

Schaefer, H. 2005. The Biogeography of Momordica. The Cucurbit Network News 12(1): 5.

Schaefer, H. 2009. Momordica mossambica (Cucurbitaceae), a new gourd species from miombo woodland in northern Mozambique. Nordic Journal of Botany 27: 359–361.

Schaefer, H., Renner, S.S. 2010. A three-genome phylogeny of Momordica (Cucurbitaceae) suggests seven returns from dioecy to monoecy and recent long-distance dispersal to Asia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 54: 553-560. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2009.08.006

Schaefer, H., Renner, S.S. 2011. Cucurbitaceae. Pp. 112-174 in K. Kubitzki, ed., Families and Genera of Flowering Plants, Vol. 10. Springer Verlag, Berlin.

Vogel, S. 1990. Ölblumen und ölsammelnde Bienen: dritte Folge. Momordica, Thladiantha und die Ctenoplectridae. Trop. Subtrop. Pflanzenwelt 73: 186 pp.

Zimmermann, A. 1922. Die Cucurbitaceen. Vol. 1-2. Fischer, Jena.