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Loofah

Loofah

Plant text by Naomi Lacey, feature photo Wikipedia

Common name: Loofah, Luffa
Scientific name: Luffa acutangula & Luffa cylindrica
Family, and related species: Cucurbitaceae

Description including form (tree, climber etc), other similar species

A vigorous annual fruiting vine with vines growing up to 5m long. They look very similar to a cucumber vine with maple leaf shaped leaves and small bright yellow male and female flowers. Acutangula flowers only at night and cylindrical flowers only in the morning. It fruits year round.

Role/ characteristics/ use in permaculture

The fruits are edible when small as are the leaves and flowers. 

Can be used as a screening plant.

The mature fruit is dried and used as a sponge for bathing, dishwashing etc. The fibrous material can be used for items such as pot holders, doormats, engine filter material, stuffing for mattresses etc.

Known as a healing herb with emetic properties and the leaves are used for skin diseases.

A cash crop that is high yielding.

Ecology and habitat requirements

Ecology and habitat requirements

This vine grows best in a warm climate with no frost in a full sun position. It likes a full sun position with good air circulation and quality organic, well drained soil. They are heavy feeders that like a lot of nitrogen so keep well mulched. A strong trellis or fence is needed to support the weight of the fruit. 

If a good crop rotation process is utilised there will be very little trouble with pests or diseases. 

Access to plants

Plant from seed in a good seed germinating mix. Germination rates will be higher if the seeds are soaked overnight first. 

Seeds can be purchased online from most seed dealers such as Eden Seeds or Green Harvest.

References

References

Norrington, Leonie, 2001, Tropical Food Gardens: A guide to growing fruit, herbs and vegetables, Bloomings Books, Melbourne, Australia

Wikipedia, 2014, Luffa

Mother Earth News, 2014, The Highly Versatile Luffa Plant

NC State University, Commercial Luffa Sponge Gourd Production

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