Luffa aegyptiaca

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Luffa aegyptiaca
Egyptian luffa fruit
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Luffa
L. aegyptiaca
Binomial name
Luffa aegyptiaca
  • Cucurbita luffa hort.
  • Luffa cylindrica M.Roem.
  • Luffa aegyptica (lapsus)
  • Luffa aegyptiaca (Mill.)
  • Luffa pentandra Roxb.
  • Momordica cylindrica L.
  • Momordica luffa L.
Leaves, flower and fruit of a luffa

Luffa aegyptiaca, the sponge gourd,[2] Egyptian cucumber or Vietnamese luffa, is an annual species of vine cultivated for its fruit, native to South and Southeast Asia.


The three-lobed leaves are 7.5–20 centimetres (3–8 inches) wide.[3]

The fruit, approximately 30 cm (12 in) long and maturing to brown, resembles a cucumber[3] in shape and size.



The synonymous botanical specific epithet "aegyptiaca" was given to this plant in the 16th century when European botanists were introduced to the plant from its cultivation in Egypt. In the European botanical literature, the plant was first described by Johann Veslingius in 1638, who named it "Egyptian cucumber". Veslingius also introduced the name "Luffa".[4]



Dishcloth (towelgourd), cooked, boiled, drained, without salt
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy56 kJ (13 kcal)
14.34 g
Sugars5.17 g
Dietary fiber2.9 g
0.34 g
0.66 g
Vitamin A260 IU
Thiamine (B1)
0.046 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.042 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.26 mg
Vitamin B6
0.099 mg
Folate (B9)
12 μg
Vitamin C
5.7 mg
Vitamin E
0.24 mg
Vitamin K
1.7 μg
9 mg
0.36 mg
20 mg
31 mg
453 mg
21 mg
0.17 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central


Cultivars in North America[edit]

According to researchers in Florida, common cultivars for Luffa aegyptiaca include Smooth Boy, Smooth Beauty, and South Winner.[5] Many other cultivars were also mentioned in the Vegetable Cultivar Description for North America List 24, 1999:[6]

  • Ba Leng Gua (ZWRM 135).—Parentage: from China. Characteristics: low yield of sponges.
  • Fletcher.—Breeder: DeCourley, Missouri. Characteristics: high yield of high-quality sponges with 100 × 400-mm size.
  • Hollar Luffa (13204).—Vendor: Hollar & Co. Characteristics: moderate to high yield of high-quality sponges with 97 × 428-mm size.
  • Leng Si Gua (ZWRM 133).—Parentage: from China. Characteristics: high yield of moderate-quality sponges with 60 × 350-mm size.
  • Lockhardt (Walters 484).—Vendor: Lockhardt Seeds. Characteristics: high yield of moderate-quality sponges with 79 × 489-mm size.
  • Orol Ledden Luffa.—Vendor: Orol Ledden & Sons. Characteristics: moderate to high yield of high-quality sponges with 98 × 429-mm size.
  • Pang Si Gua (ZWRM 134).—Parentage: from China. Characteristics: moderate yield of moderate-quality sponges with 100 × 430-mm size.
  • Peace Luffa.—Vendor: Peace Seeds. Characteristics: moderate yield of high quality sponges with 85 × 420-mm size, late flowering.
  • Pusa Chikni.—Parentage: from India. Characteristics: attractive fruit, eaten immature. Martin’s Vegetables for the Hot, Humid Tropics, 1979.
  • Qing Pi Chang (ZWRM 138).—Parentage: from China. Characteristics: high yield of moderate-quality sponges with 65 × 595-mm size.
  • Quan Zhou Chang Tiao Gua (ZWRM 141).—Parentage: from China. Characteristics: high yield of moderate, high-quality sponges with 50 × 180-mm size.
  • Richters Luffa (S3795).—Vendor: Otto Richter and Sons Ltd. Characteristics: moderate to high yield of high-quality sponges with 98 × 431-mm size.
  • Shi Ting Da Quing Pi (ZWRM 137).—Parentage: from China. Characteristics: high yield of moderate quality sponges with 60 × 540-mm size.
  • Smooth Short Luffa.—Vendor: Seed Saver’s Exchange. Characteristics: fruit short, cylindrical, eaten immature (at 6” long), 90-day maturity. 1981.
  • Sunrise (Walters 401).—Characteristics: moderate to high yield of moderate-quality sponges with 78 × 495-mm size.
  • USA Luffa (Guatemala).—Vendor: USA Luffa Inc. Characteristics: moderate to high yield of moderate-quality sponges with 72 × 464- mm size.
  • Xiang Si Gua (ZWRM 136).—Parentage: from China. Characteristics: low yield of moderate-quality sponges with 75 × 315-mm size.



The young fruit is eaten as a vegetable and is commonly grown for that purpose in tropical Asia. The young shoots, flowers and leaves can be cooked, and the mature seeds can be roasted for consumption.[3]


Unlike the young fruit, the fully ripened fruit is strongly fibrous and inedible, and is used to make scrubbing bath sponges. Due to the use as a scrubbing sponge, it is also known by the common names dishrag gourd, rag gourd, sponge gourd, and vegetable-sponge.[1] It is also called smooth luffa to distinguish it from the ridged luffa (Luffa acutangula), which is used for the same purposes.[1]

Oil extract[edit]

An edible oil can be extracted from the seeds. The resulting oil meal can be fed to rabbits and catfish, or used as a fertilizer.[7]

The fibrous skeleton of the fruit is used as a household scrubber. The fiber is xylem. It has semi-coarse texture and good durability.
Sponges made of sponge gourd for sale alongside sponges of animal origin (Spice Bazaar at Istanbul, Turkey).
Sponge gourd in a market in Dhaka, Bangladesh.


In Israel, Luffa aegyptiaca has been in use since late antiquity. Young fruits were used for food. Mature fruits were used as bath sponges. Luffa aegyptiaca fruits were decorated for the first time in art of the Byzantine era in Israel only. The fruits were decorated on mosaics of churches and synagogues in Israel.

Luffa in Kursi mosaic, Golan Heights
Luffa in mosaic at Beth Alfa synagogue


Luffa has been cultivated throughout Asia for centuries for use as a household cleaning agent and is now, due to the gently abrasive quality of the natural fibers, a popular exfoliating agent in the eco-friendly cosmetic industry.[8] Owing to its striking yellow flowers, the plant is occasionally grown as an ornamental.


It requires much heat and much water to thrive.[9] However, Luffa aegyptiaca can be cultivated in temperate climates. Research from North Carolina suggests that commercial production of luffa in the United States could be economically viable.[10]


Techniques that contribute to success in growing luffa include using black mulch to warm soil temperatures and transplants to increase the germination rate and extend the growing season. Narrow spacing may result in poorer quality sponges.[8] It is best grown with a trellis support for its curled tendrils to hang on to.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b c "Luffa aegyptiaca". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  2. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Luffa aegyptiaca". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b c The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants. United States Department of the Army. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. 2009. p. 117. ISBN 978-1-60239-692-0. OCLC 277203364.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ Johann Veslingius, De Plantis Aegyptiis, 1638. p. 48 (in Latin)
  5. ^ Xie, Yucong; Liu, Guodong; Li, Yuncong; Migilaccio, Kati. "HS1285/HS1285: Luffa—an Asian Vegetable Emerging in Florida". Retrieved 2022-10-18.
  6. ^ Wehner, Todd C. (1999-08-01). "Vegetable Cultivar Descriptions for North America List 24 1999". HortScience. 34 (5): 763–806. doi:10.21273/HORTSCI.34.5.763. ISSN 0018-5345.
  7. ^ Heuzé V., Tran G., Lebas F., 2017. Luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. Last updated on July 18, 2017, 10:53
  8. ^ a b "Luffa Gourds". Washington State University Extension. Retrieved 2022-10-20.
  9. ^ Davis, Jeanine M. (1994-04-01). "Luffa Sponge Gourd Production Practices for Temperate Climates". HortScience. 29 (4): 263–266. doi:10.21273/HORTSCI.29.4.263. ISSN 0018-5345.
  10. ^ Davis, Jeanine (December 12, 2018). "Commercial Luffa Sponge Gourd Production | NC State Extension Publications". Retrieved 2022-10-18.
  11. ^ Harwick, Elizabeth (2017-09-21). "A Legacy of Luffa". Garden Guides. Archived from the original on 2020-11-30. growing Luffa cylindrica successfully in South Carolina.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ Hassani, Nadia (2022-04-05). Harris, Sonya (ed.). "How to Grow and Care for Luffa" (HTML). The Spruce. New York: Dotdash Meredith. Retrieved 2023-04-18. A trellis like those used for cucumbers and pole beans works well […] add string in a V-pattern so the tendrils of the vines have something to grab onto.

External links[edit]

Media related to Luffa aegyptiaca at Wikimedia Commons