Alsomitra macrocarpa

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Javan cucumber
Alsomitra macrocarpa seed (syn. Zanonia macrocarpa).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Alsomitra
Species: A. macrocarpa
Binomial name
Alsomitra macrocarpa
(Blume) M.Roem.
Opening fruit (some 30cm in diameter) (lower left), flowers (lower right), winged seed (center), twining stem with foliage (top) - Not to same scale
Meyers großes Konversationslexikon

Alsomitra macrocarpa ('also'=grove, 'mitra'=mitre/fillet) or Javan cucumber is a gourd-bearing liane, belonging to the pumpkin family from the tropical Asian forests of the Malay Archipelago and the Indonesian islands. Alsomitra is a genus of 12 species of vines found in Southeast Asia, Australia and South America.

The unusual winged seed or samara of this species spans some 13 cm, can glide for great distances and in the past was often found on the decks of ships at sea. The seed moves through the air like a butterfly in flight - it gains height, stalls, dips and accelerates, once again producing lift, a process termed phugoid oscillation. This seed is said to have been the inspiration for the 1904 stable wing planform designed by Igo Etrich.[1][2] The flight of the seeds intrigued two Japanese researchers, so much so that they published a 1987 paper in the Journal of Theoretical Biology reporting on the aerodynamics of the seed.[3]

The fruits or pepos are also remarkable in that they are football-sized (about 300mm diameter) and bell-shaped, suspended high in the forest canopy, and densely packed with large numbers of the papery winged seeds, falling from the underside of the fruit when mature. [1][2]

The plant was first described under the name Zanonia macrocarpa in 1825 by Carl Ludwig Blume from fruiting material collected on Mount Parang in Java. In 1843 Max Joseph Roemer published it under the name Alsomitra macrocarpa, including 7 other ill-fitting species in the genus, a genus he did not define. In 1881 Alfred Cogniaux allocated the species to Macrozanonia macrocarpa.[4]

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