Gourd / Cucumber Family

California Manroot © KKorbholz

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

Iconic Features

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

    Description (Jepson)

      • Herbaceous vines with tendrils
      • 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
      • 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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