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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Genus: Citrullus

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Cucurbitales > Family: Cucurbitaceae

Four species, native to from Africa through to Asia with three species native to southern Africa. Watermelon is a domesticated form of Citrullus lanatus which has a wide distribution from Asia through to Africa where it is found in the Kalahari and called Tsamma. An additional two species are cultivated in the region.

Species native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI), Flora of Zimbabwe and Flora of Mozambique.

Citrullus ecirrhosus


Citrullus lanatus (Watermelon, Tsamma)

Wild Citrullus lanatus grows widely in Africa and Asia. In southern Africa it grows in the Kalahari where it is known as Tsamma. Thought to have been domesticated in Africa at least 4000 years ago and now grown worldwide, particularly in regions with long, hot summers.

Citrullus rehmii


Other species, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002).

Citrullus colocynthis (Colocynth)

Native from the Mediterranean through to India.


Citrullus fistulosus

Native from tropical Africa.



  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated plants of southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • Launert, E. & Roessler, H. 1968. Cucurbitaceae. Prodromus einer Flora von Südwestafrika 94: 1-22.

  • Meeuse, A.D.J. 1962. The Cucurbitaceae of southern Africa. Bothalia 8: 1-111.