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Small or large climbers; herbaceous or woody; annual or perennial; Leaves dispersed, simple or foliolate; Inflorescences: Fruit small to large, either berry-like and pulpy and usually not opening (subfam. Cucurbitoideae), or capsular with 3 apical valves (subfam. Fevilleoideae). Seeds variable in size and shape, often compressed, unwinged or winged;


Africa present, America present, Asia-Temperate, Asia-Tropical: Borneo present; New Guinea present, Eastern Malesia present, Madagascar present, all over the world present, northern Australia present, south-eastern Asia present
A family of about 120 genera and 900 species, distributed all over the world, the majority in the tropics with most genera in America, a few in temperate climatic zones, but not occurring in cold areas. Most genera have only few species. The larger genera in America are e.g., Cayaponia, Gurania, Cyclanthera, Melothria, and Sicyos (American and Pacific); inAfrica e.g., Momordica, Cucumis, Pilogyne, and Neoachmandra; in south-eastern Asia e.g., Trichosanthes (c. 100 species), Hemsleya (China, c. 20 species), Pilogyne, Neoachmandra, and Thladiantha (mainly China, 20 species, of which 1 or 2 in Malesia).

Most genera are confined to a single continental area, only a few are found in two continents, e.g. Pilogyne and Neoachmandra, both occurring in Asia and Africa.

Species distributional areas vary from those with bi-continental distributions, such as Mukia maderaspatana, to those with intermediate ranges, like Trichosanthes globosa, down to restricted local-endemics like Borneosicyos, or else they are known from only one or a few collections, or from a single locality like Pilogyne trichocarpa or Anangia macrosepala. The genus Muellerargia contains 1 species in eastern Malesia and northern Australia and 1 species in Madagascar.

In Malesia there are 29 native and 10 cultivated genera, the cultivated ones frequently with running wild species, notably in Benincasa, Citrullus, Cucumis, Cucurbita, Cyclanthera, Lagenaria, Luffa, and Sechium. Benincasa and Luffa contain wild as well as cultivated taxa. Introduced wild-running species are found in the genera Cayaponia and Melothria. The largest genera in Malesia are: Trichosanthes (43 species), Pilogyne (14 species), and Neoachmandra (12 species). Endemism is high in Borneo and New Guinea (particularly in Trichosanthes). In total 132 species of the Cucurbitaceae are treated in the present flora.


Jeffrey (1962, 1990) made efforts to improve the classification of Cucurbitaceae, the latest version (Jeffrey 2005) was modified on the basis of seed coat anatomy (Singh & Dathan 1998). Jeffrey divided the family into two subfamilies: Nhandiroboideae and Cucurbitoideae. Subfam. Nhandiroboideae (= Fevilleoideae, syn. Zanonioideae) contained one tribe with 5 subtribes, two of which included Malesian genera. The subfam. Cucurbitoideae consisted of 10 tribes, some with 2 subtribes, most of them containing Malesian genera.

In the most recent treatment of the whole of Cucurbitaceae which is based on molecular data as well as on morphological cladistics (Schaefer, Heibl & Renner 2009, Schaefer & Renner (in press (for Kubitzki)), subfamilies are not recognized, instead 104 genera are placed within 15 tribes, 9 of which occur in Malesia. These are:
  • Tribe 1 — Gomphogyneae (Alsomitra, Bayabusua, Gomphogyne, Gynostemma, and Neoalsomitra).
  • Tribe 3 — Zanonieae (Zanonia).
  • Tribe 6 — Thladiantheae (Baijiania, Thladiantha).
  • Tribe 7 — Siraitieae (Siraitia).
  • Tribe 8 — Momordiceae (Momordica).
  • Tribe 12 — Sicyeae (Cyclanthera, Hodgsonia, Luffa, Sechium, and Trichosanthes (including Gymnopetalum)).
  • Tribe 13 — Coniandreae (Kedrostis).
  • Tribe 14 — Benincaseae (Benincasa, Borneosicyos, Citrullus, Coccinia, Cucumis (including Mukia), Diplocyclos, Indomelothria, Lagenaria, Melothria, Muellerargia, Papuasicyos (including Urceodiscus), Scopellaria, Solena, and Zehneria (including Anangia, Neoachmandra, Pilogyne).
  • Tribe 15 — Cucurbiteae (Cayaponia, Cucurbita).

In the present Flora Malesiana treatment two subfamilies as circumscribed by Jeffrey (2005) are followed but under the names Fevilleoideae and Cucurbitoideae. Various genera to be sunk by Schaefer, Heibl & Renner (2009) and Schaefer & Renner (in press (for Kubitzki)) are maintained on the basis of flower- and fruit-morphology. The subfamily Fevilleoideae generally are considered as more primitive (basal) then the Cucurbitoideae. According to Mennes & Van der Ham (see under Pollen Morphology) the two subfamilies differ significantly in pollen characters.
There are 2 subfamilies, see Taxonomy.


Cogn. 1924 – In: Engl., Pflanzenr. 88: 2
H.Schaefer & S.S.Renner: Fam. Gen. Vasc. Pl.
Cogn. 1881 – In: A.DC. & C.DC., Monogr. Phan. 3: 340
C.B.Clarke 1879 – In: Hook.f., Fl. Brit. Ind. 2: 604
Miq. 1856 – In: Fl. Ned. Ind.: 652
Pax 1889 – In: Engl. & Prantl, Nat. Pflanzenfam. 4: 9
A.M.Lu, Lu Q.Huang, S.K.Chen & C.Jeffrey 2009: Fl. China Wilde & Duyfjes 2008 – In: Fl. Thailand: 411
Backer 1964 – In: Backer & Bakh.f., Fl. Java 1: 292
Cogn. 1916 – In: Engl., Pflanzenr. 66: 3
I.Telford 1982 – In: Fl. Australia: 158
Keraudren 1975 – In: Aubrév. & J.-F.Leroy, Fl. Cambodge, Laos & Vietnam 15: 3