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CUCURBITA pepo

Image of Cucurbita pepo

Jessie Keith

Family

Cucurbitaceae

Botanical Name

CUCURBITA pepo

Plant Common Name

Acorn Squash, Courgette, Crookneck Squash, Pattypan Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Summer Squash, Zucchini

General Description

The species Cucurbita pepo has been cultivated since ancient times by Native Americans, and includes true pumpkins and winter gourds as well as many varieties of summer squash and zucchini. These popular vegetables (technically fruits) are warm season annual vines, although compact bush-type varieties have been developed. They are New World plants grown widely by many cultures throughout the world and appear in a fantastic array of colors, shapes and sizes.

The plants are monoecious, meaning single plants bear separate male and female flowers. These are large, yellow and funnel shaped. Male blossoms are generally produced first, followed by the fruit-producing female flowers, which are distinguished by bulbous ovaries at the bases. Following pollination by bees, these develop into fruits, which may be harvested from approximately 50 to 100 days from sowing, depending on the selection. The fruits are often obscured by the large, coarse, heart-shaped or deeply lobed foliage held on fleshy, erect stems above the prostrate vines.

Summer squash are grown for their immature fruits harvested early in the season, and include zucchini, yellow crookneck, and saucer-shaped pattypan types. All have thin, tender skin at this stage and do not store well, but require relatively few days from sowing to table. Older fruits develop hard skin and become inedible if left on the vine for too long. If picked often and early, summer squash often yields enough to be shared generously with friends and neighbors.

The fruits of winter squash are allowed to fully mature on the vine before harvesting in fall. Highly variable in size, shape and color, most have dense, yellow to bright orange flesh which is often sweet and rich in flavor. The nutritious flesh is protected by a hard, outer skin which enables the fruits to be stored for a number of months. Popular winter squash varieties include true pumpkins and acorn types. Some are even grown as ornamental gourds, such as ‘Crown of Thorns’ and ‘Nest Egg.’ They should be picked before frost when the rinds are hard and fully colored, and the vines have begun to turn brown.

Plant squash seeds in full sun and deep, rich, well-drained loam when the soil has warmed and all danger of frost has passed. Regular water is essential, but the plants will not tolerate soggy conditions or wet feet. Where drainage is not optimal, it is advisable to plant them in raised mounds of fertile, porous soil. Vining varieties can be trellised if space is limited. Watch closely for squash bugs, cucumber beetles and vine borers at the base of the stems. Yearly crop rotation and removal of dead plant debris at the end of the growing season can help to minimize insect and disease problems.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, 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

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m (2)

  • Width

    3'-30' / 0.9m - 9.1m (20)

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    North America, Mexico, Central America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Vining/Climbing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Orange, Dark Green

  • Fruit Color

    White, Yellow, Green, Orange, Dark Green

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • 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

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes