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MELOTHRIA pendula

Image of Melothria pendula

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Cucurbitaceae

Botanical Name

MELOTHRIA pendula

Plant Common Name

Creeping Cucumber, Drooping Melonette

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

A fast-growing vine with small, ivy-like leaves and curly tendrils, the creeping cucumber or drooping melonette produces very small fruits that look like jelly bean-size watermelons. This perennial deciduous vine (although evergreen where frost never occurs) is native from the southern half of the United States to northern Argentina. The weedy vines will ramble across the soil like a groundcover, or quickly climb upward on a trellis, fence, shrub or tree.

The plants are frost-tender and need warm soil and temperatures to prosper. About 55 to 60 days after sowing seeds, the little immature green fruits are ready to harvest. Only eat the fruits when they are light to deep green, when you see mottled spots of silver white. They taste like tart cucumbers. Avoid eating fruits that have ripened to show any black skin. Consuming the mature seeds in these black-skinned fruits will cause diarrhea.

The creeping cucumber is a perennial vine to grow as an annual in the warmth and sunshine of summer. It has small, pointy lobed leaves (resembling ivy foliage) that are green with fuzzy undersides. Crush a leaf and the fragrance of cucumber is noticeable. When mature in summer's warmth, the vines produce tiny, five-lobed yellow flowers that are either male or female. Pollen-bearing male flowers are produced first, followed by the fruit-bearing female flowers. The female flowers are recognizable with close inspection because of the bulbous ovaries at their bases.

Grow these vines in full sun to bright partial shade and fertile, evenly moist, perfectly drained garden loam. After the threat of frost passes, sow the seeds directly in the ground. If transplanting container-grown plants, take care to not damage their tender white roots unless they are root-bound. Root-bound plants can be saved only if their roots are gently teased apart before planting. Be sure to harvest fruits regularly, so vines will continue to flower and produce fruit.

There are potential health concerns associated with the creeping cucumber's ripe black fruits. For more information, visit: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Melotpe.htm .

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    7 - 12

  • 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, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    6'-20' / 1.8m - 6.1m

  • Width

    4'-18' / 1.2m - 5.5m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southeastern United States, South-Central United States, Southwestern United States, Texas, Mexico, Central America, South America, Argentina, Brazil

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Vining/Climbing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Lemon Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Light Green, Black, Silver

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Light Green, Yellow Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • 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