Gourd Family

California Manroot © KKorbholz

Cucumber Family
Cucurbitaceae (kew-ker-bih-TAY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Herbaceous vines with tendrils
  • Leaves usually palmately lobed
  • Flowers unisexual
  • Inferior ovary

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Herbaceous vines with tendrils
  • Leaves
    • Generally simple (not divided into leaflets); usually palmately lobed (lobes radiating from a single point)
    • Alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
  • Flowers
    • Usually unisexual, with separate male and female flowers on same plant (monoecious)
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) of clusters of male flowers or solitary female flowers at the leaf axil (branching point)
    • Star- or trumpet-shaped flowers, usually with 5 fused sepals (usually green, outer flower parts) and 5 fused petals
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit a berry (a usually multi-seeded fruit with a fleshy ovary wall) or capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity), often gourd-like with a hard outer rind (pepo)


  • Approximately 700 species worldwide
    • Includes cucumber, pumpkin, squash, and watermelon
  • The dried fibrous fruit of Luffa, a southern Asian vine, is the source of “loofah” sponges (Kirk 2016)
  • Scientific name from the included genus Cucurbita, from the Latin for “gourd”
  • California manroot (Marah fabacea) is the only representative of this family at Edgewood

See General References

Specific References

Kirk, L. 2016, Nov. 17. Luffa or loofah: How to grow and use this amazing plant. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

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