Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Balsam Apple, Cundeamor
Momordica balsamina

Family: Cucurbitaceae (koo-ker-bih-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Momordica (mo-MOR-di-ka) (Info)
Species: balsamina (bal-SAM-in-uh) (Info)

10 members have or want this plant for trade.

Vines and Climbers

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
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:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Blooms all year
Blooms repeatedly


Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

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There are a total of 17 photos.
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6 positives
6 neutrals
9 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral michaelhickman On Mar 5, 2014, michaelhickman from Durban
South Africa wrote:

Momordica balsamina is a very valuable food plant that supplies protein and many vitamins and minerals to rural communities in East Africa in particular Mozambique, it occurs naturally where I live north of Durban in South Africa. The leaves and fruit are however mildly poisonous when uncooked. As a landscape design specialist I strongly agree that these are not suitable garden plants for the average garden but for the specialist grower who wants something different, or for someone who wants them for their nutritional of medicinal value, In the more wild parts of my own garden I allow them to grow in limited numbers removing unwanted plants otherwise they do tend to take over, because the seeds are a valuable food source for a large number of our native birds, My partner who is Zulu from time to time also harvests leaves to be cooked as a green vegetable . Momordica has a unique and distinctive taste which may not be appreciated by all who try it. The local Zulu name for this plant is intshungu

Negative Harris12 On Jun 23, 2012, Harris12 from Cape Coral, FL wrote:

This weed is out of control in my Cape Coral Fl yard. We bought this house last year and discovered it everywhere. I pull the small saplings but more still come back. We found the largest roots of the source and pulled but it still comes back. Heard roundup is great and it does work, but will kill the rest of my garden too. This weed is not recommended to anyone, unless you plan on your entire yard, house, trees, lanai screen, bushes and flowers to be covered in it.

Positive Jean_Gilles On May 4, 2012, Jean_Gilles from Fern Park, FL wrote:

The person that lives in O-Town please let me know where you're located so can get some leaves, lol. You might not like it, but I love it!! lol. Is there a way we can meet up. I live in Fern Park/Casselberry. If that's alright with you :-)

Negative pmsnds On Jan 11, 2012, pmsnds from West Palm Beach, FL wrote:

This plant is worse than poison ivy. It spreads to other parts of the body. I live in Palm Beach Gardens Florida.

Negative O_Town On Sep 1, 2011, O_Town from Winter Park, FL wrote:

I can't believe some say this plant is good for skin rashes, ect. This vine gives me a rash everytime I weed eat it. I do not like this vine, it takes over my back fence every year and the best I can do is trim it down so it doesn't take over everything. I am suffering right now with itchy neck and arms, and I do not have sensitive skin. But this plant does it everytime. So people with sensitive skin may want to be careful when pulling, or trimming them.

Positive itchycooler1 On Aug 22, 2010, itchycooler1 from Winter Haven, FL wrote:

I must agree with the reader. "Cerasse" as it is called in my neighborhood, is hard to get rid of, especially if you allow the orange pods to burst and drop the seeds (next seasons plants) onto the ground. I use to make tea of the stuff, but sometime, i don't have the time so now i just pull some (unsprayed) off the hedges or fence, wash it, chew and swallow. It does curb the appetite and restrict sweet tooth cravings. It's so bitter, it should be good for something! Neighbors of mine with blood sugar problems, usually drink the tea to control the insulin. One Jamacian neighbor of mine said to just boil everything, it do you know harm he said so i did. I've had an on-off (kinda' like a diet) use for maybe seven years.

Negative beeber On May 6, 2009, beeber from Cape Coral, FL wrote:

Please do not plant this vine anywhere in Florida. It is highly invasive. It came to my yard as a weed and it covers everything in a matter of days. I have worked hours and hours to remove every root and it just keeps coming back. I thought I won when it disappeared the first winter (2 years ago), but it just goes dormant in winter. Nothing stops it permanently unless you want to kill everything in your garden with Roundup.

Negative Trudi3 On Feb 8, 2008, Trudi3 from Vero Beach, FL wrote:

This vine is horrible. It is indeed a very noxious, invasive weed. I don't see how it can have any value at all. Please don't plant it.

Negative passiflora07 On Nov 1, 2007, passiflora07 from Fern Park, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I am in a constant battle with this plant. If left alone, it will cover everything in my yard with no mercy! Unfortunately it especially loves to grow in and on my large bougainvilleas. That is a painful chore...

Neutral herbs501 On Sep 20, 2007, herbs501 from Hallettsville, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is a lovely annual vine to cover a structure or fence quickly. The flowers are light yellow, about an inch across, with the pods forming later. The leaves are somewhat cut, a medium green in color. In my area it reseeds prolifically, and can be a pest. I like it, though.

There are many references to this plant's medicinal and food use in parts of Africa. More research needs to be done on this plant to find out about its usefulness.

Positive marylouhermann On Jan 2, 2007, marylouhermann from Springfield, OH wrote:

Our family, starting with my grandmother, have made a great Balsam Salve using this plant as a basis. I am looking for the seeds so that I may make a batch of the salve for our family. Thanks,

Mary Lou Hermann

Negative MikeAFL On Aug 27, 2004, MikeAFL from Lake Worth, FL wrote:

This vine is a major pest in my yard. It covers everything. It's threatening my fruit trees. Does anybody know a good safe way to eradicate it, or at least keep it under control?

Positive jcedw1 On May 21, 2004, jcedw1 from Cincinnati, OH wrote:

This plant is used by many families of German ancestory here in Ohio as a medecine. I have found two recipes using the fruit of this plant cut up mixed with whiskey. This makes a lumpy liquid that is best for blisters or any open cut really. I am searching for the best way to start the seeds. My older generation has passed on before I learned enough on how to start this plant. I have the seeds but am not having much success in starting this vining plant.

Neutral Thaumaturgist On Jul 10, 2003, Thaumaturgist from Rockledge, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

There is some confusion [around this plant] because both Momordica balsamina and Momordica charantia have the same common name of Bitter Melon.

Negative Larkie On Jul 8, 2003, Larkie from Camilla, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

Though very pretty, and I still leave a few on the fence..The rest get pulled or sprayed.. It is a very noxious weed here in south GA..

Neutral MotherNature4 On Jul 7, 2003, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

The seeds are brown covered with a red fleshy substance (pulpy aril) that tastes similar to watermelon. It is delicious, and may help those with diabetes, but the seeds may give you an upset stomach if chewed.

I recommend reading Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean by David W. Nellis, published by Pineapple Press in Sarasota. There is a picture of this fruit on the cover. The author states that the seeds contain a purgative oil.

Positive pixy242 On Jul 7, 2003, pixy242 from oshawa
Canada wrote:

In India, as bitter as it is, this plant is commonly eaten as a vegetable.

Also, it can bring down blood sugar levels in diabetics and is used herbally for this purpose.

Added July 8, 2004
When cooked and eaten as food the seeds are usually removed. Like many things, it could be poisonous if you ingest too much and people wishing to use it medicinally should do so with adequate information.
Negative Nurafey On May 28, 2003, Nurafey from Polk City, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I think I am the only person that doesn't like these vines! They are invasive, and take over anywhere if not pulled up. I also think they have an unpleasant odor. I tend to find them trying to cover up other plants and take over fences. Sorry to say, but I pull these up any time I see a seedling trying to grow in my yard.

Positive lisa40 On Apr 3, 2003, lisa40 wrote:

This plant is medicinal; we use it for the temporary relief of chronic skin rash. Also, you can chew the red sweet seeds (do not swallow.)

Neutral Kazanne On Feb 27, 2003, Kazanne wrote:

I live in Queensland, Australia and I first learnt about this plant by accident. We moved onto acreage about 4 months ago where the gardens had been very neglected etc...I started watering exisitng gardens and up popped these vines...we did not have a clue what they were until someone identified them for me.....

Our soil is not fertilised, is mainly a sandy loam and the vines are flourishing at a very rapid rate producing many flowers and abundant in fruit.

The bright yellow flowers, flower all day, every day here and we are experiencing new plants popping up everyday also...the pods when explode open to reveal the bright red pulpy seeds are dropping to the ground and they just keep forming new plants!!!
We do not look after these vines with any thing other than a watering every couple of days. They do not seem to be affected by any insects, parasites or the like....although our common black ant seems to love feeding on them when they have exploded.
In the four or five months that they have been growing and producing fruits - I have NOT encountered any dying off of the vine, no yellowing of leaves, the fruits seem to develope at many different sizes and also have noted that no birds or bees seem to favour this plant.

It is my way of thinking that if grown in different parts of the world...this plant will very much vary. I have detected no disease or fungus, no aphids or pests here in QLD, Australia (so far) that affects this plant.

Neutral mystic On Aug 9, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Momordica belongs to the cucumber family, Cucurbitaceae. Momordica balsamina (aka Balsam Pear, Bitter Cucumber, La-Kwa, or Bitter Melon) is a tender, tropical perennial grown as an annual.

They are luscious, high-climbing vines with slightly fuzzy stems clothed with dark green, deeply lobed leaves and yellow, dioecious (male & female organs on separate flowers) flowers. The blossoms have 5 petals and are an inch in diameter.

The flowers open at sunrise and remain open for only one day. In regions with a long growing season, these vines produce handsome, oblong, lumpy fruits with light green to greenish-white, waxy skin. When they are mature, they take on an orange hue and the skin dries and splits open to expose bright scarlet arils (tissue) surrounding the brown or white seeds.

The fruit is 4 to 6 inches long, oblong, pointed and furrowed lengthwise. When full ripe it splits into 3 divisions. The immature fruit is boiled as a vegetable. A pulpy aril surrounds the seeds, which is esteemed by Orientals. The pulp of these seeds is eaten in the Orient, but these vines are mainly grown for ornament in the U.S.


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

Pine, Colorado
Bartow, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Brandon, Florida
Cape Coral, Florida
Casselberry, Florida
Cocoa, Florida
Delray Beach, Florida
Dunedin, Florida
Eustis, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Lake Worth, Florida
Lakeland, Florida (2 reports)
Largo, Florida
Lutz, Florida
Merritt Island, Florida
Miami, Florida
New Port Richey, Florida
Ocoee, Florida
Orlando, Florida (2 reports)
Oviedo, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Rockledge, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida (2 reports)
Sarasota, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Vero Beach, Florida (2 reports)
West Palm Beach, Florida
Winter Haven, Florida
Winter Park, Florida
Zephyrhills, Florida
Kihei, Hawaii
Brown City, Michigan
Springfield, Ohio
Lafayette, Tennessee
Hallettsville, Texas

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