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CITRULLUS lanatus 'Moon and Stars'

Image of Citrullus lanatus 'Moon and Stars'

James Burghardt

Family

Cucurbitaceae

Botanical Name

CITRULLUS lanatus 'Moon and Stars'

Plant Common Name

Moon and Stars Watermelon, Watermelon

General Description

The dark-skinned, yellow-spotted fruits of 'Moon and Stars' watermelon are decorative as well as tasty. The large, ribbed, oblong to spherical melons are blackish green with numerous small yellow dots and one to several large yellow blotches. The foliage is also yellow-flecked. This heirloom melon typically has sweet, coarse, light-red flesh and dark brown seeds, but one strain of 'Moon and Stars' contains yellow flesh and white seeds. Fruits can weigh as much as 30 pounds (13 to 14 kg). Time from seed to harvest is about 90 to 100 days. Introduced in the 1920s, 'Moon and Stars' was lost to horticulture for many years before being reintroduced by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in 1987.

Watermelon is a tender annual tropical vine that needs a long, very warm growing season to produce its famous fruits. Yellow, bee-pollinated flowers appear among the attractive deeply lobed, gray-green leaves throughout the growing season. On 'Moon and Stars', the leaves are splattered with tiny yellow dots. Some watermelon flowers are male and others female. Female blooms have a bulbous ovary at the base, which will eventually become the fruit, and the males only have pollen-laden anthers.

Watermelons do not become sweeter after being harvested, so they must be picked when ripe. It is tricky to know when to harvest—especially considering the fruits take a while to mature and patience can wane. The best means is to monitor the tendril closest to the developing fruit. Once the tendril starts to turn brown, the fruit is ready. Another method is to keep an eye on stem health. When the stem is green and firm, the melon is still ripening; a soft withering green stem is an indication of ripeness, and a dry or unattached stem can mean over-ripeness. Finally, check the underside of the melon and give it a light knock. If the underside of the melon has turned from white to pale yellow and a hollow sound emanates from the fruit, it is probably ripe. When harvesting, cut the melon from its stem. Tearing the stem can lead to vine rot.

Full sun and fertile, crumbly-textured sandy loams are perfect for watermelon culture. Watermelon plants appreciate sharp drainage, so it is best to sow seeds in low mounds of soil - called "hills." Seedlings do not transplant well, so sow them where they are to grow. After the threat of frost has passed, plant as many as three seeds per hill and keep the soil evenly moist but not wet (wet soil can induce seed rot). Once the small plants have emerged, keep them lightly moist and feed them regularly. Provide ample room for the plants to sprawl across the ground. The sheer weight and size of the melons precludes training the vines on trellises. This variety demonstrates limited disease resistance and drought tolerance.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 4

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Fruit

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    1'-2' / 0.3m - 0.6m

  • Width

    8'-18' / 2.4m - 5.5m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Africa, Southern Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Prostrate/Trailing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow, Light Yellow, Dark Green, Black

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green, Light Yellow

  • Foliage Color (Spring) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green, Light Yellow

  • Foliage Color (Summer) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green, Light Yellow

  • Foliage Color (Fall) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Herb / Vegetable, Tropical, Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes