Citrullus lanatus is a sprawling annual, growing hairy stems of up to 3 m. Not really a climber as it is usually seen on open ground in sandy soils. The plant is commonly known as tsamma, karkoer or makataan, all names inherited from indigenous tribes that valued the fruit as a water and food source in harsh rural living conditions.
The stalked leaves are heart-shaped at the base, deeply lobed and hairy. They become up to 10 cm long and 6 cm wide. Yellow summer flowers are followed by melon-like fruit, globose in shape, about 20 cm in diameter. The smooth fruit surface is variably mottled; longitudinal pale and dark bands running across it.
The distribution is widespread from the Little Karoo northwards, occurring in all nine South African provinces and tropical Africa. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century (Van Wyk and Malan, 1997; Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2010; www.redlist.sanbi.org).