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Gourd Family (Cucurbitaceae)

Additional Gourds Native To North America

Most species in the gourd family are tropical and subtropical in their distribution. However, a few species occur in the north-temperate zone, including several native to North America. These wild plants are not eaten by people.

The creeping cucumber (Melothira pendula) is widespread in woods in the United States and south into Mexico. The bur-cucumber (Sicyos angulatus) occurs in moist habitats from southeastern Canada to Florida and Arizona.

The balsam apple or squirting cucumber ( Echinocystis lobata) is an annual, climbing plant that occurs in moist thickets and disturbed places over much of southern Canada and the United States. When the green, inflated, spiny fruits of the squirting cucumber are ripe, they eject their seeds under hydrostatic pressure so they are dispersed some distance away from the parent plant.


Resources

Books

Brucher, H. Useful Plants of Neotropical Origin and Their Wild Relatives. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1989.

Hvass, E. Plants That Serve and Feed Us. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1975.

Judd, Walter S., Christopher Campbell, Elizabeth A. Kellogg, Michael J. Donoghue, and Peter Stevens. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. 2nd ed. with CD-ROM. Suderland, MD: Sinauer, 2002.

Klein, R.M. The Green World. An Introduction to Plants and People. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.

Whitaker, T.W., and G.N. Davis. Cucurbits. Botany, Cultivation, and Utilization. New York: Interscience Pub., 1962.


Bill Freedman

KEY TERMS

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Berry

—A soft, multi-seeded fruit developed from a single compound ovary.

Dioecious

—Plants in which male and female flowers occur on separate plants.

Indehiscent

—Refers to a fruit that does not spontaneously split along a seam when it is ripe in order to disperse the seeds.

Monoecious

—A plant breeding system in which male and female reproductive structures are present on the same plant, although not necessarily in the same flowers.

Pepo

—A berry developed from a single, compound ovary and having a hard, firm rind and a soft, pulpy interior.

Tendril

—A spirally winding, clinging organ that is used by climbing plants to attach to their supporting substrate.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Glucagon to HabitatGourd Family (Cucurbitaceae) - Biology Of Gourds, Agricultural Species Of Gourds, More On The Cucurbita Squashes Of The Americas