Ivy gourd, or Coccinia grandis, is a member of the cucumber family. It's a vine originating in Asia and Africa, also known as scarlet gourd or Tindora. It has adapted to tropical and subtropical areas. It's considered a noxious, invasive weed, and has become a problem in the U.S. in Hawaii, Texas, Florida, as well as parts of Asia. Ivy gourd takes hold and spreads quickly, capable of growing 4 inches per day. It propagates by root or seed.
Characteristics of Ivy Gourd
Ivy gourd is a perennial, tropical climbing vine that grows aggressively and easily overtakes surrounding ground, nearby fences, utility poles or other nearby structures. Ivy gourd is dioecious, which means it requires two plants of opposite sexes to form the gourd's seeds. The fruit or gourds each contain numerous seeds.
Seed's Role in Propagation
The ivy gourd's star-shaped, white flowers turn into a small green fruit or gourd that later turns scarlet. Each fruit is filled with many seeds, which play a large part in the vine's spread. The seeds do not go dormant. However, growing ivy gourd from seed is a lengthy process because it takes so long to mature and it is a root vegetable.
In some areas, the ivy gourd reproduces through cuttings or pieces, or birds disperse its seeds. In Guam, where only the male sex of ivy gourd plant exists, it spreads through its root system or cuttings.
The ivy gourd plant's seed-filled fruit is used as an edible vegetable, in chutney or stir-fried. It was introduced to Hawaii as a food crop for backyards. There, it's known as "Thai spinach." It's best eaten when the gourd is still green.
The roots and stems are succulent and help the ivy gourd plant store water through dry seasons. The ivy gourd's shoot tips are also commonly used in Asian cooking.