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, common name for some members of the Cucurbitaceae, a family of plants whose range includes all tropical and subtropical areas and extends into the temperate zones.
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a genus of plants of the family Cucurbitaceae. They are annual monoecious herbs with climbing stems. The alternate leaves are five- to seven-lobed or, less frequently, entire. The flowers are unisexual, large, yellow or white, with a pentamerous perianth. The staminate flowers are racemose, and the pistillate flowers are solitary. The dried fibrous fruit has many seeds and is cylindrical or elongated.
There are six to eight species of Luffa (according to other data, 20), found in the tropics. The best-known species are Luffa cylindrica, with smooth fruits up to 50 cm and more in length, and L. acutangula, which has ribbed fruits from 15 to 30 cm long. Both species are cultivated primarily in the tropics and subtropics, most commonly in Japan, India, Indochina, Egypt, tropical America, the United States, and Asia Minor. In the USSR the plants are grown on the Black Sea Shore of the Caucasus, the Crimea, the Northern Caucasus, and Middle Asia.
The young ovaries of these plants are used as vegetables. The ripe fruits are used as sponges and in the manufacture of hats, shoes, and other items. The seeds contain more than 25 percent oil, which is used in industry. Cultivation is similar to that of other members of the family Cucurbitaceae. It is necessary to support the plants to prevent the fruits from touching the ground and growing in unattractive shapes. Depending on their degree of ripeness, the fruits are cut with either pruning shears or a knife. The harvest from 1 hectare is up to 25,000 fruits and up to 3,500 kg of seeds.
V. F. BELIK and T. V. EGOROVA