Aquarium amazed by giant Loofah crop

Bristol Aquarium is enjoying a bumper crop of giant loofahs in its tropical glasshouse.

The Harbourside attraction has been overwhelmed by the number and scale of the bizarre-looking members of the cucumber family which have grown on a three-storey vine in the massive botanical house.

Now staff are working on how to harvest the giant pods, some of which are close to a metre in length.

Bristol Aquarium’s David Waines said: “The loofah vine grows above our open-top Mediterranean ray display. There are more than 30 giant pods this year compared to only five last year.

“We think the bumper crop is a result of the good summer followed by a very mild start to the autumn as loofahs require more than 100 days of sunlight to develop properly. Even now they are still in flower.

“The pods are so large that it makes them hard to cut them down so we plan to gradually lower the netting which the vine grows on to the ground and then harvest them.

“Once harvested we will hang them on a line to dry, remove the outer skin, clean off the inside and collect the seeds for next year’s crop.

“We’ve never had this many loofahs before so we’ll have to decide what to do with them, their gently abrasive surface does make them perfect for cleaning so maybe we can look to utilise them around the aquarium,” he added.

A loofah is a fibrous plant seed pod and belongs to a group of plants which included gourds, pumpkins and cucumbers. When young they can be eaten, however as they mature they become a tough mass of fibre which are used as scrubbing sponges.

As well as its fishy residents, Bristol Aquarium is home to dozens of exotic plants, flowers and trees from around the world – all housed within the giant glasshouse.

The botanical collection includes a display of orchids, flowering bougainvillea, Spanish flags, papaya plants, a ‘Jurassic Corner’ based around a collection of prehistoric tree ferns, Madagascan jasmine and fruiting banana trees.

Among the other horticultural highlights are the giant bamboos which grow at an extraordinary rate of up to 20 centimetres a day and the aquarium’s own crop of chilli’s and tamarillos.

Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information and to arrange picture/ filming opportunities please contact Sarah Moore or David Waines on 0117 929 8929.