Genus of the Week
Week of October 26 - November 1
This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the
context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of
all available Web resources for a particular genus.
If you like this page, you should also visit the Land of the Glandular Trichomes
, a microscopic look at plants in the Lamiaceae family.
This week's genus:
Cucurbita - Pumpkins, Squashes & Gourds
Number of Species: At least 6, with many subspecies and cultivars
Root: Cucurbita means "gourd" in Latin.
The genus Cucurbita consists of plants native to the New World. One characteristic of
this genus is that individual plants can be either monoecious or diecious, bearing unisexual
flowers that are specifically pollinated by bees in the genera Peponapis and
Xenoglossa. Plants in this genus also produce the coiling tendrils that are typical of
climbing plants. Anyone who has ever eaten pumpkin pie, carved a Jack-O'-Lantern or purchased
odd-shaped gourds can appreciate the economic and ornamental value of the cucurbits. The seeds
produced inside the fleshy fruits are said to have medicinal properties, and infusions made from
them have been taken to cure urinary ailments.
Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Cucurbita species:
- The Vascular Plant Image Gallery at Texas A&M University has
dozens of images of the cucurbits, from whole plants to close-ups of flowers and fruit.
- Those interested in the population genetics of crop plants will definitely want to check out
the web-published study of the
problems of domesticated C. pepo and its free-living sub-species, written by Hugh D.
Wilson of Texas A&M University.
- Click here to
see a close-up of what the stems and leaves of C. pepo look like when infected with the
fungus Erysiphe cichoracearum (Powdery Mildew).
- Interested molecular biologists may want to go to the SCOP database (Structural
Classification of Proteins) to check out the information available for the
Trypsin inhibitor isolated from C. maxima or the
Ascorbate oxidase isolated from zucchini.
- The Southern California Natural History web pages from Loyola Merrymount University contain
some nice photos of
C. foetidissima, also known as Coyote Melon, Wild Pumpkin, and of course, Stinking
- Visit the Center for Plant Conservation's web version of the National Collection of
Endangered Plants for information about the
Okeechobee Gourd C. Okeechobeensis,an endangered species found only in Florida.
- Grieve, M. (C. F. Leyel, ed.). A Modern Herbal. London, Tiger Books International: 1973.
- Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
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