What is citron melon? What does it look like?

What is citron melon

What is citron melon? Citrullus lanatus var. citroides, or jam melon, is a bland, gummy melon that is simply excellent for jams and jellies. 😋
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In this short read, discover a few quick facts about citron melon and a description of what the plant – and HUGE fruit – look like.

Related species: a medicinal mini-melon

What is citron melon?

Citron melon is an ancestor of today’s famous watermelon plant. It is a vine that crawls along the ground and up walls or fences. Here’s a short description:

  • Citron melon fruitFruits are similar to watermelon in size, sometimes larger. They’re either round like a basketball, or oval like a gigantic egg. Flesh inside is white or ivory-colored.
  • Depending on the variety, seeds may be black, whitish, or red-seeded.
  • Patterns on the skin aren’t like the traditional zebra-like watermelon. They either have roundish dark spots like a leopard, or simply shades of light green and ivory.
  • A mature citron melon weighs from 10 to 30 lbs (5 to 15 kg)!

Citron melon blooming and growing habit

It’s quite easy to grow citron melon. Since most varieties have been selected by local growers over centuries, they tend to be well-adapted to their local environment.

  • Flowers appear after the first half-dozen leaves. The yellow flowers are either male or female.
  • Only the female flowers bear fruits.
  • One or more stems travel from the root crown and spread to cover surfaces
  • Wide leaves soak up sun and smother other ground cover plants.
  • Roots reach deep into the ground and like rich soil

Let’s take a look at each part of the plant and get to know it better.

Citron melon flowers

It has solitary flowers with petals that are large and yellow which measures around an inch across (20-30 millimeters).

  • They grow on the stem, at the base of the leaves, but where along the stem is totally random.

Flowers are either male or female.

  • Citron melon flowerFemale flowers are identified thanks to their pistils and ovary. The ovary is a swelling under the flower. It later turns into the fruit.
  • Only female flowers develop into fruits.
  • On the other hand, both male and females are crucial for  fertilization thanks to pollination. A female flower that isn’t fertilized won’t turn into fruit.

Citron melon pollinators

Pollinators are the usual in the garden:

  • many flies and small wasps love to pollinate this plant.
  • Apis mellifera, the honeybee, will also pollinate it.

In some settings there might not be enough pollinators. It’s always possible to hand pollinate citron melon.

  • Pick a male flower. Remove the petals carefully or fold them back.
  • Rub the remaining stamens that stick out of the middle onto the center part of the female flower – the pistils.

Stems and leaves of citrus melon plants

Stems will easily grow very long, up to a dozen feet (4 meters).

Leaves, though very wide, aren’t round. They’re like a large hand with frills around the fingers. They stand up at the end of a long stem (or petiole). All together, they form a bush that reaches knee height.

These crops will cover neighboring plants and climb up shrubs if there are any nearby. They use tendrils to lock on to twigs, branches, or anything they can use to climb.

  • Citron melon will smother any other low-lying crop if left unattended.
  • Unless it finds a way to climb, it will remain vulnerable to powdery mildew on hot days.

Citron melon root system

The root system of citron melon is incredibly dense. Citron melon is an excellent vegetable for growing in dry areas, since it is used to searching for water on its own.

  • A mature plant may have sent its roots to a depth of 4 feet (1.25 m).
  • Distance of the roots from the crown may reach 18 feet or 6 meters.
  • Each plant might send up to two dozen large roots in all directions.

Being such a resilient and self-caring plant, it’s among the easiest types of melon to grow.

Images: CC BY 4.0: Jared Shorma, CC BY-SA 4.0: Tony Rebelo; Public Domain: Simon Tonge