Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Cyclanthera pedata



Cyclanthera pedata


  • Last modified
  • 30 March 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cyclanthera pedata
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cyclanthera pedata

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Violales
  •                         Family: Cucurbitaceae
  •                             Genus: Cyclanthera
  •                                 Species: Cyclanthera pedata

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Cyclanthera, a member of the Cucurbitaceae, is classified in the tribe Sicyoeae together with the genus Sechium (chayote). Cyclanthera is a large New World genus containing 30 or so species. The various species of the genus are distributed in the wild from Mexico to Argentina. Cyclanthera pedata, one of only two cultivated species of the genus, is not known in the wild but presumably originated from the same region where it is now most widely cultivated: the Andes mountains of north-western South America. The other cultigen, Cyclanthera brachystachya (Ser.) Cogn. (exploding cucumber), is also grown for its edible fruit, at elevations up to 2600 m. Although it is less widely cultivated than C. pedata, it is even more cool tolerant. It grows wild from El Salvador to Colombia and Venezuela.

C. pedata was first designated by Linnaeus in 1753 as Momordica pedata, but Schrader considered this plant to be too different from other members of Momordica, and in 1831 designated it as a separate genus, Cyclanthera, from whence the name Cyclanthera pedata (Janick and Paull, 2008).


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Cyclanthera pedata plants are vigorous vines that can attain a length of 12 m and are good climbers.

Leaves The foliage is glabrous and is said to emit a cucumber-like odour if injured. The stems of C. pedata are thin and bear palmate leaf laminae that are deeply 5- to 10-lobed and lanceolate with serrated edges. The leaf laminae have a large size range, from 8 to 24 cm in diameter, and are borne on petioles having a dorsal groove and ranging from 5 to 15 cm long. Bifid tendrils are borne in the leaf axils.

Flowers Cyclanthera pedata is monoecious, but the staminate flowers are borne in racemes, whilst the pistillate flowers are solitary. As compared with other cucurbits, kaywa flowers are relatively inconspicuous; they are light green or white and small, only several millimetres in diameter.

Fruits The fruit is 5–15 cm long and 3–8 cm wide, irregularly ovoid and pointed at the ends, light yellow-green with slightly darker veins. The fruit surface can be smooth or softly spiny with a shaggy appearance. The fruit flesh is soft and spongy, not crunchy, only 0.5 cm thick, and is said to have a flavour resembling that of cucumbers. Except for the flesh and the 12 or so seeds attached to one placenta lobe, the fruit is hollow. It was observed that fruits growing on a plant sprawling on the ground were more irregularly shaped than usual: the stylar end of the fruit, normally pointed and black, was curved so as to occur on the upper side of the fruit, attributable to greater growth of the lower side of the fruit.

Seeds The seeds, 12 x 7 x 3 mm, are flat and matt black. In shape, they are said to resemble diminutive mud turtles, having head and neck outstretched and four projections at angles where the feet would be. The surface is not smooth, instead described as pimply, with ridges and depressions. The seeds are said to be edible (Janick and Paull, 2008). 


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Kaywa is cultivated for home and local use in mountainous regions of South America, Central America and Mexico. It is also grown sporadically in Nepal, Taiwan and China (Janick and Paull, 2008). 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

North America

MexicoPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases
GuatemalaPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases
HondurasPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases

South America

ColombiaPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases
EcuadorPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases
PeruPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases


ItalyPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases

Biology and Ecology

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Cyclanthera pedata, although well adapted to the cool temperatures of high elevations (up to 2000 m), it is not described as being cultivated in temperate regions. This species is day-length sensitive, like other cucurbits originating from low-latitude regions, requiring short day lengths to induce fruit production; therefore it is not adapted to the spring and summer seasons of mid- and high-latitude regions (Janick and Paull, 2008)


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The young fruits of kaywa are consumed cooked, raw or pickled. The fruits are hollow and often they are prepared for cooking by removing the seeds and then stuffing them with rice and meat and/or cheese. Mature fruits are consumed in soups and stews after removal of the seeds. In some localities, young shoots and leaves are consumed as greens (Janick and Paull, 2008).

Uses List

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Human food and beverage

  • Fruits
  • Vegetable

Distribution Maps

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