Pepo! I see you!

Look what I spied — a little cucurbit that has volunteered near the glass recycling center! This is the sort of serendipitous find that brings a smile and some questions. Where did the seed for this plant come from, and how did it get here? And will other curious botanizers leave it there to intrigue others visiting here to do their recycling?

Cucurbitaceae is the melon or gourd family.  It’s a big family, and most members bear a strong family resemblance: vines with large yellow or white flowers, hairy pent angular (wow!) stems with tendrils at most nodes. Around here, we don’t see them often outside of gardens and grocery stores. And then there’s the occasional volunteer germinating in the compost heap.  The fruit of a cucurbit is called a “pepo” — wonderful name!  How many can you name? Watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, pumpkin .. the list goes on and on.



  1. Todd Crabtree

    At first glance this looks like a pattypan type squash but the long vines are not a characteristic of that yummy variety of Cucumis pepo. Instead, I think this is the progeny of an ornamental variety that was discarded. These gourds appear in many shapes and colors at farmers markets in the fall. Seeds from this plant might produce fruits of different shapes and colors. Another possibility is that the fruits would revert to a typical Cucumis pepo form which looks like a fat light bulb of a dull color.
    My favorite Cucurbit is Cucumis melo var. reticulatus, muskmelon. Many Americans call them cantaloupes but the true cantaloupe is Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis, a variety widely grown in France but not commonly seen in America. They have smooth skin and usually have dark green sutures. ‘Charentais’ is a popular cultivar of the true cantaloupe. ‘Ambrosia’ is a popular cultivar of muskmelon. Muskmelons provide some clear signals of ripeness and one of those is a pronounced fragrance. If there are any soft spots on the outside then you waited too long.

  2. marypriestley

    If this plant survives, I I am bringing the fruits to the TN Native Plant Society meeting in mid-September for a closer look, more evaluation, and — who knows? — maybe some yummy snacking!

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