Text Ref: Bailey 954; Hickman, Ed. 536; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 391.
Photo Ref: June-July 87 # 21, 22, 23; July-Aug 87 # 18.
Identity: by R. De Ruff.
First Found: July 1987. Lat 33° 39’ 09.9” N; Long. 117° 52’ 01.8” W. Horse and bike path at Jamboree Rd.
Computer Ref: Plant Data 302.
Plant Specimen: With R.L. De Ruff plant samples.
Last Edit: 9/6/10
VASCULAR PLANTS OF UPPER NEWPORT BAY
Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad.
var. lanatus (Thumb.) Matsum & Nakai
=Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus
Plant Characteristics: Monoecious annual, +/- hairy, with long trailing stems bearing
branched tendrils; lf. blades ovate in outline, 3-8 cm. long, pinnately divided into 3-4 pairs
of lobes, these again lobed and toothed, the segms. broad at apex; corolla ca. 4 cm. in
diam., 5-parted nearly to base; ovary with 3-placentae and many ovules; stigmas 3; fr.
hemispherical to ellipsoid, hard, smooth, green striped; seeds white to black, in a sweet red
to greenish or white flesh.
Habitat: Occasional escape from cult. Bloom dates not given in Munz, Flora So. Calif. but
it would normally be summer. The species has only been found in Santa Ana Heights near
Jamboree Rd. where the soil at a nearby site is fine sand but without enough silt to form
hard clods. pH=7.8. Nearby growth includes Schinus terebinthifolius, Baccharis spp,
Poaceae spp. and Typha spp.
Name. Latin diminutive of citrus, having a similar odor and flavor. (Munz, Flora So. Calif.
391). Latin, lanatus, wooly. (Jaeger 136). The species name probably refers to the hairy
leaves and stems. (my comment). Latin, colo, to inhabit and cynthus, the birthplace of
Apollo and Diana. (Simpson 116, 165). Colocynthis, to inhabit a place of the Gods, possibly
referring to the sweet fruit. (my comment). Michael Charters’ calflora.net suggests that the
word is derived from the Greek, kolokunthus, round gourd.
General Information: Rare in the study area, having been found only once, and this in
the Santa Ana Heights area near Jamboree Rd. (my comment). Although an Old World
plant, watermelons appear to have preceded the Spanish advance into the Southwest.
Father Kino reported watermelons being grown by the Indians at Las Sandias near the Gila
junction as early as 1700. Other Spanish explorers observed watermelon being grown by
Colorado River tribes, including Juan Bautista de Anza whose expedition was offered three
thousand watermelons by the Yuma Indians. Watermelons were mentioned as being grown
by the Cahuilla, Indians of the Colorado Desert, the San Jacinto and San Bernardino
Mountains, near present-day Thermal by Don Jose Maria Estudillo, a member of the first
Spanish expedition to cross Coachella Valley. The Cahuilla ate watermelons fresh or cut
peel into strips and dried them for winter use. They may also have buried watermelon in
sand for short-term storage as was done by some of the Colorado River Tribes. (Bean and
Saubel 55). About. 4 species of trop. Old World. (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 391). John
Johnson believes that there was an active trade between the Indians of the southwest and
the Aztecs and Central Americans. Two hundred years had elapsed between the time the
Spanish were first in Mexico until they entered California and the Colorado River regions,
allowing for the dispersal of watermelon seeds.