Telfairia Hook.
Telfairia Hook., Bot. Mag. 2751-52. 1827.
Type: Telfairia pedata (Sm.) Hook.; basionym: Fevillea pedata Sm. ex Sims (as „Feuillea„), Bot. Mag. 53: t. 2681. 1826. Type: W. Bojer s.n. (GDC), Tanzania, Zanzibar, 1833.
Joliffia Bojer ex Delile, Mém. Soc. Hist. Nat. Paris 3: 318. 1827.

Large, perennial, dioecious liana, with up to 30 m long, woody shoots, and strong, fleshy, tuberous roots. The leaves are petiolate, with up to 8 mm long probracts at the base of the petiole, pedately (3-)-5-7-foliolate with elliptic leaflets, the central ones up to 15 cm long and 7 cm broad. The tendrils are robust, apically bifid with unequal branches. The flowers are large, showy, sweet-scented, diurnal. Male flowers are produced in racemes, the female flowers are solitary (rarely in pairs). The receptacle-tubes are short, campanulate with five triangular-acuminate, dentate sepals. The five petals are white, purplish or pink, fringed c. 2 cm long, free. The five or three stamens are inserted halfway up the tube on short, free filaments. There are either five bithecous anthers or three (two tetrathecous, one bithecous) with straight thecae. The pollen is tricolporate, reticulate, medium-sized (polar axis 60-82 µm, equatorial axis 50-70 µm, (Keraudren 1968, Khunwasi 1998)). The ovary is ribbed with many horizontal ovules and three stigmata. The fleshy fruit is ellipsoid, to 60 cm long and 25 cm across, weighing up to 12 kg, ribbed, with or without an expanded, basal collar, with white waxy surface when young, dehiscing apically by 8-10 longitudinal valves. The up to 200 seeds are large (3.5-5 cm across), broadly ovate, compressed, in yellowish-white pulp, covered by fibrous sheath, containing edible oil. The testa is yellowish to pale or dark reddish brown, smooth or verrucous. The chromosome number is n = 12 in T. occidentalis (Okoli and Mgbeogu 1983).

The three species grow in lowland rainforest in tropical Africa. Two of them are often cultivated in villages and nearby for the leaves and oily seeds. Named after the Irish physician and plant hunter Charles Telfair (1778-1833).

Telfairia is placed in tribe Joliffieae together with Cogniauxia and Ampelosicyos (Schaefer & Renner 2011) and split from the latter about 29 million years ago (Schaefer et al. 2009).

Accepted species

Telfairia batesii Keraudren, Adansonia, n.s. 513: .1965.
Telfairia occidentalis Hook.f., Fl. Trop. Afr. 2: 524. 1871.
Telfairia pedata (Sm.) Hook., Bot. Mag. 54: t. 2751. 1827.


Akoroda, M.O., Ogbechie-Odiaka, N.I., Adebayo, M.L., Ugwo, O.E. and B. Fuwa. 1990. Flowering, pollination and fruiting in fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis). Scientia Horticulturae 43: 197-206.

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

Okoli, B.E. 1987. Morphological and cytological studies in Telfairia Hooker (Cucurbitaceae). Feddes Repertorium 98: 505-508.

Okoli, B.E. and C.M. Mgbeogu. 1983. Fluted Pumpkin, Telfairia occidentalis: West African vegetable crop. Economic Botany 37: 145-149.

Schaefer, H. and S.S. Renner. 2011. Phylogenetic relationships in the order Cucurbitales and a new classification of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). Taxon 60: 122-138.

Schaefer, H., Heibl, C., and S.S. Renner. 2009. Gourds afloat: a dated phylogeny reveals an Asian origin of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) and numerous oversea dispersal events. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 843-851.