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Publication #HS605

Gourd, Okeechobee—Cucurbita okeechobeensis Bailey1

James M. Stephens2

Florida has many unique distinctions, one of which is that it is the home of the Okeechobee gourd. However, this native gourd may not be here for long, as reports indicate its existence is threatened by cold weather and habitat disturbance.

The gourd plant is an annual climbing vine growing abundantly in heavy tangled woods along the southeastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. It uses its tendrils to climb into low-growing trees.

Description

The gourd plant has grape-like foliage. Each leaf contains five to seven shallow lobes. The gourd fruits hang conspicuously from trees long after the annual vine is dead. The flowers are cream-colored or nearly white and have a 3-inch long corolla, with very small sharp lobes on the calyx. The gourds (fruits) are nearly globular, long stemmed, 3 to 3½ inches in diameter. They are hard shelled and durable, light green with faint longitudinal lines of lighter color, and sometimes have rather definite marks of yellowish green. Fruits contain many flattened seeds with raised margins.

Figure 1. 

Okeechobee gourd


Credit:

Marc Minno


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Culture and Use

According to the Florida Division of Plant Industry, at one time the gourd was a common sight in the hammocks around the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee and was not known elsewhere. Today the gourd is found only occasionally in small areas that have not been too closely cultivated. Since there has been no mention of the edibility of this gourd, it should not be eaten.

Footnotes

1.

This document is HS605, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 1994. Revised September 2015. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

James M. Stephens, professor emeritus, Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.