The Dilleniidae
Family Overview - The Violales
Cucurbitaceae - the Gourd Family

Diversity:  A family about 125 genera and over 825 species of scandent, tendril-bearing herbs, both annual and (mostly) perennial.  Domesticated elements include the watermelon (Citrullus) and bottle groud (Lagenaria), both from Africa, squash (Cucurbita - 5 species domesticated) from the Americas, and Cucumis species from Eurasia (cucumber and sweet melons).

Distribution:  Broadly distributed throughout tropical areas of the World - pantropical - 15 genera and 29 species in the Texas flora.

Floral structure:cuc - ff


Significant features:
  A given local flora will include a small number of herbaceous vines and, of these, a smaller number that produce tendrils.  Combine these features with a palmate pattern of leaf lobing and venation and you have, just using vegetative characters, a well marked family.  The floral structure is also distinctive in that the Cucurbitaceae combines imperfect or unisexual, a mode typical of anemophilious taxa, with clear floral adaptations for insect pollination, i.e., large, showy, complex flowers that are highly specialized via connation at all four whorls (synsepalous, sympetalous, synantherous, and syncarpous) and adnation to produce an hypanthium and conspicuous epigyny.  The fruit is - in essence - a berry with a leathery or lignified (hardened) pericarp+hypanthium that is tagged with a family-level name, the pepo. The family includes the flowering plants species that has, perhaps, the longest association with humans - the bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) and the species that produces the largest fruit of all angiosperms (Cucurbita maxima).

 
cuc - dia   Citrullus colocynthis - wild watermelon - overview
 
Cucumber (Cucumis sativa) flowers at anthesis, pistillate (left) and staminate (right) cuc - maile flr
 
lag - male Bottle Grourd (Lagenaria siceraria) staminate flower (left) with perianth removed showing synanthery and 'contorted' anthers and (right) pistillate flower in bud lag - female

cic friuit section 1 Fruit cross sections - apparent parietal (from the pericarp) placentation - acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo) and cucumber (Cucumis sativa)

More information on the Cucurbitaceae


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