C. colocynthis is a desert viney plant that grows in sandy, arid soils. It resembles the watermelon, which is in the same genus. It is native to the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. The fruit is smooth, spheric with a 5– to 10-cm-diameter and extremely bitter taste. The calyx englobe the yellow-green fruit which becomes marble (yellow stripes) at maturity.
The seeds of colocynth, which must be heated to make edible, have been used since antiquity as a food source in areas of the Sahara. Invasive in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Victoria.