Citrullus lanatus

Botanical Name

Citrullus lanatus

Other names

Tsamma, wild watermelon; karkoer or tsamma (Afrikaans); makataan (Tswana); t'samma (Khoi)




A creeping annual herb with prostrate stems

Description of Stem

Multiple greenish grey, hairy stems of up to 3m in length; forked tendrils

Description of Leaves

Leaves occur on sturdy stalks, are conspicuously and ornately lobed around three prominent veins emanating from the leaf-base; hairy, rough to the touch on both surfaces

Description of flowers

Axillary flowers, light yellow, five-lobed corolla, greenish underneath; monoecious (male and female flowers on the same plant)

Description of seed/fruit

Variable, usually spherical fruit of 20cm in diameter ripen in winter; pale yellow-green (in the Kalahari form), sometimes light green with longitudinal dark green markings on the surface (in the cultivated, makataan form); the flesh or fruit pulp contains multiple seeds

Description of roots



Variable over the wide areas of its appearance, increased by cultivation and selection

Propagation and Cultivation

Grown from seed in vegetable production




Edible fruit, sought after in dry areas for potable liquid by humans and animals; cultivars improved for human use have been developed in cultivation; seeds are dried, roasted, winnowed and ground to store as a sought after and nutritious meal; jam is made from some forms of the cultivated varieties; in Africa the seed is used to make a skin cream

Ecological rarity


Pests and Diseases

Humans may be able to survive for several weeks on tsamma alone in a desert environment




Sandy soil in grassland or bushveld; often in areas where the natural vegetation had been disturbed or cultivated


Northern Cape, Northwest, Limpopo


South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and northward in Africa