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Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Cucurbitales

Familia: Cucurbitaceae
Tribus: Benincaseae
Genus: Acanthosicyos
Species: A. horridus

Acanthosicyos Welw. ex Hook.f., 1(3): 824. (1867)

Type species: Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f. Gen. Pl. 1(3): 824. (1867)


Acanthosicyus Post & Kuntze, Lex. 3. (1903) orth. var.


Bentham, G. & Hooker, J.D. 1867. Genera Plantarum 1(3): 824.
Farr, E.R. & Zijlstra, G. (eds.) 1996 onwards. Acanthosicyos in Index Nominum Genericorum (Plantarum). Accessed: 2010 Nov 10.
The Plant List 2013. Acanthosicyos in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published online. Accessed: 2014 Aug 26. 2014. Acanthosicyos. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 26 Aug 2014.
International Plant Names Index. 2014. Acanthosicyos. Published online. Accessed: Aug 26 2014.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2019. Acanthosicyos in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2019 Dec 22. Reference page.

Vernacular names
English: Gemsbok Cucumber, Nara

Acanthosicyos is a genus of thorny shrubs of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae, subfamily Cucurbitoideae.[1] The genus name derives from the Greek words "akantha" for thorn and "sykios" for cucumber or gourd.[2]

Endemic to the Namib Desert in Africa, this genus is represented by two known species including Acanthosicyos horridus, the nara melon, an important food plant in its native range. Both species are dioecious.[3][4]
Image Name Distribution Description
Gemsbok Cucumber (Acanthosicyos naudinianus) (6865171484).jpg Gemsbok cucumber (Acanthosicyos naudinianus) western Botswana, eastern Namibia and northern South Africa trailing herb
0892 Narafrucht Sossusvlei.JPG Nara melon (Acanthosicyos horridus) Namib Desert but predominantly found within a narrow coastal strip in Namibia It is almost exclusively found in sand dunes that have subterranean water supplies available to the plant. The nara plant is leafless, the modified stems and spines serve as the photosynthetic "organs" of the plant.

Both the Nara and the Gemsbok Cucumber are edible; however, eating unripe fruit is highly inadvisable due to the presence of chemicals which "burn" the throat and esophagus. The bushmen of the Kalahari eat the Gemsbok Cucumber after it has been roasted in a fire for a couple of hours. This cooking renders the "burning" chemicals harmless; even if the cooked pulp is still slightly bitter, the Bushman seem to relish eating them, sucking out the contents and either spitting out or chewing up the plentiful seeds.

Lithwick, Harvey; Bruins, Hendrik J. (1998). The Arid Frontier: Interactive Management of Environment and Development. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7923-4227-4.
Umberto Quattrocchi (1999). CRC World Dictionary of Plants Names: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2.
"PROTA4U". Retrieved 2021-03-19.

Unc; Maggs-Kölling; Marais; Sherman; Doniger; Steinberger (2019). "Soil bacterial community associated with the dioecious Acanthosicyos horridus in the Namib Desert". Biology and Fertility of Soils. 55 (4): 393–403. doi:10.1007/S00374-019-01358-7. S2CID 102353767.

Bihrmann's Caudiciforms: Acanthosicyos naudinianus

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