Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Cucumber, La-Kwa

Momordica charantia

Family: Cucurbitaceae (koo-ker-bih-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Momordica (mo-MOR-di-ka) (Info)
Species: charantia (char-AN-tee-a) (Info)


Vines and Climbers

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Gold (Yellow-Orange)

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall


Unknown - Tell us

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Vincent, Alabama

Sacramento, California

Bradley, Florida

Melbourne, Florida

Miami, Florida

Titusville, Florida

Winter Garden, Florida

Statesboro, Georgia

Marrero, Louisiana

Raleigh, North Carolina

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 11, 2015, janelp_lee from Toronto, ON (Zone 6a) wrote:

Very easy to grow from seeds. Medicinal veggie.


On Jul 13, 2008, J_C from Saint Petersburg, FL wrote:

The plant grows great in both Saint Petersburg, FL and Miami, Florida. The fruit is prickly and orange in color and grows to a little bigger than the size of a golf ball in Miami while in Saint Petersburg it grows almost to the size of the golf ball. I had a plant growing all over the fence in Saint Petersburg last year.

While in Miami, I was looking for things that help with manage diabetes. I found the bitter melons in the oriental shops and they do a great job with diabetes with no noticed harmful side effects. These look like prickly (bumpy) cucumbers about the size of cucumbers. And I bought some seeds to try growing the vine here in Florida (sold at the oriental grocer in Miami). Before I left Miami, I did manage to get some vines started in Miami for a friend.o
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On May 17, 2007, Lily_love from Central, AL (Zone 7b) wrote:

Is there an error to say that this plan with the posted fruit is "poisonous"?, for the fruit is edible. I hope there will be further correction if it was. I knew for quite sometime that this was referred to as "Bitter Gourd" or "Bitter Cucumber" as it belongs to the cucurbit family.


On Apr 4, 2005, DawnRain from Bartow, FL wrote:

I think there are several closely related species. I am not a botanist so correct me where I am wrong. I think Momordica charantia is Bitter Melon and the longish fruit that is eaten by the Asian people. In Florida we have Balsam Apple, Momordica balsamica. It is as MotherNature described it. A beautiful fruit with an interesting vine and butter yellow simple, but nice bloom and rather pretty. It loses pretty because it has a tendency to be invasive and perennial in our Florida gardens. And it has a nasty smell when you are pulling it. But I do keep one on a post just because I like the look of it. I didn't know that it was also edible. That is great info.


On Apr 3, 2005, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

The fruit of this plant doesn't look like the Chinese lantern shaped fruit of Momordica charantia in my reference book. It only uses the common name Balsam Apple, and not Bitter Melon.

The leaves are palmately veined with 5 lobes and variable notches along the margins.

The Warty outer skin is bright yellow. It splits along three lines, curls back to show the bright red, fleshy pulp that covers the tan colored seeds. The pulp is sweet and tastes similar to watermelon.

I will try to send some photos.
I would like to back up. Two usually reliable resources describe these plants with different names. According to Wunderlin, GUIDE TO THE VASCULAR PLANTS OF FLORIDA, it is M. charantia that is commonly found in Flori... read more


On Jul 9, 2003, soilsandup from Sacramento, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I am Chinese and my mother grows a crop of bitter melon every year. It is definitely an acquired taste - but we grew up with it and all of my siblings like it as adults. The oldest of my three children is starting to eat it, but the two younger ones have not. Previous comments have included problems with the plant's invasiveness. Perhaps there are invasive wild varieties versus well behaved domesticated ones. I do not know of anyone complaining about this plant among the Chinese community. My mother picks all of the melons as they are produced, leaving a few fruits to ripen to supply seeds for next year's planting. The list of medicinal values for this plant is endless. The seeds are removed and the melon is either stuffed and steamed, or cut into small pieces and stir-fried. Dried l... read more