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balsam-pear, bitter-melon

balsam-apple, bitter melon, cundeamor, momordica

Habit Plants annual [perennial], monoecious [dioecious], climbing or trailing; stems glabrous or hairy; roots fibrous; tendrils unbranched [2-branched].

simple or compound;

blade broadly ovate or reniform to orbiculate, palmately 3–7[–9]-lobed, usually pedate, lobes broadly ovate, rhombic-ovate, ovate-oblong, or ovate-elliptic, margins coarsely and widely dentate to crenate-dentate or sinuate-dentate, [mucronulate-dentate or remotely denticulate], surfaces eglandular.


staminate flowers solitary, [corymbose, racemose, or umbellate], axillary; pistillate flowers solitary, from different axils than staminate;

peduncles erect at apex;

bracts persistent, ovate-cordate, reniform, or orbiculate-cordate [ovate, rhombic-ovate].


hypanthium obconic;

sepals 5, linear to ovate-lanceolate or ovate-acuminate;

petals 5, distinct, yellow to bright yellow [greenish yellow], obovate or oblong [suborbiculate], [5–]7–25[–32] mm, glabrous, corolla rotate to broadly and shallowly campanulate.

Staminate flowers

stamens (2–)3;

filaments inserted near hypanthium rim, staminodes absent or 3, glandular.


berrylike or capsular, pendent, red or red-orange to yellow-orange, oblong-fusiform to ellipsoidal, cylindric or ovoid, beaked, fleshy, thick-walled, irregularly tuberculate to muricate, muriculate, or irregularly smooth-ridged, glabrous, apically dehiscent by 3 valves [indehiscent or irregularly dehiscent].


10–50, oblong to ovoid-oblong beyond narrowed base, turgid or flattened, red-arillate, margins grooved, surfaces smooth or sculptured.


= 11, 14.

Momordica charantia


from FNA
AL; CT; FL; GA; LA; PA; Africa
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from USDA
Asia; Africa; Australia [Introduced in North America; introduced also in Mexico, West Indies, South America, Europe, se Asia, Pacific Islands, Australia]
[BONAP county map]

Subspecies 2 (1 in the flora).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Species 59 (2 in the flora).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Bracts of staminate flowers near peduncle apex, margins dentate to denticulate; leaf lobes and teeth apiculate; fruits 2.5–4(–7) cm.
M. balsamina
1. Bracts of staminate flowers at or proximal to middle of peduncle, margins entire; leaf lobes and teeth sometimes submucronate but not apiculate; fruits 7–25 cm.
M. charantia
Source FNA vol. 6, p. 8. FNA vol. 6, p. 7.
Parent taxa Cucurbitaceae > Momordica Cucurbitaceae
Sibling taxa
M. balsamina
Subordinate taxa
M. charantia subsp. charantia
M. balsamina, M. charantia
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 1009. (1753) Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 1009. (1753): Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 440. (1754)
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