Any of seven species of annual climbing vines, also called vegetable sponge or sponge gourd, that make up the genus Luffa in the gourd family, native to the Old World tropics. Two species cultivated in temperate areas (L. acutangula and L. aegyptiaca) produce 1-ft- (30-cm-) long cucumber-shaped fruits. Edible and greenish when young, these fruits become straw-coloured with age. On removal of the skin, pulp, and seeds, there remains a complex of closely netted vascular bundles (food- and water-carrying tubes) that resembles a sponge in texture. This spongelike product is used for bathing, for washing dishes, and as an industrial fibre.