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Temporal range: Early Paleocene to Recent, 62–0 Ma
Hodgsonia heteroclita male.jpg
Hodgsonia male plant
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Type genus
Tribes and genera

See text.

The Cucurbitaceae (/kjuːˌkɜːrbɪˈtsii/), also called cucurbits and the gourd family, are a plant family consisting of about 965 species in around 95 genera,[2] the most important of which are:

The plants in this family are grown around the tropics and in temperate areas, where those with edible fruits were among the earliest cultivated plants in both the Old and New Worlds. The Cucurbitaceae family ranks among the highest of plant families for number and percentage of species used as human food.[3]

The Cucurbitaceae consist of 98 proposed genera with 975 species,[4] mainly in regions tropical and subtropical. All species are sensitive to frost. Most of the plants in this family are annual vines, but some are woody lianas, thorny shrubs, or trees (Dendrosicyos). Many species have large, yellow or white flowers. The stems are hairy and pentangular. Tendrils are present at 90° to the leaf petioles at nodes. Leaves are exstipulate alternate simple palmately lobed or palmately compound. The flowers are unisexual, with male and female flowers on different plants (dioecious) or on the same plant (monoecious). The female flowers have inferior ovaries. The fruit is often a kind of modified berry called a pepo.


Fossil historyEdit

One of the oldest fossil cucurbits so far is †Cucurbitaciphyllum lobatum from the Paleocene epoch, found at Shirley Canal, Montana. It was described for the first time in 1924 by the paleobotanist Frank Hall Knowlton. The fossil leaf is palmate, trilobed with rounded lobal sinuses and an entire or serrate margin. It has a leaf pattern similar to the members of the genera Kedrostis, Melothria and Zehneria.[5]


Tribal classificationEdit

Pumpkins and squashes displayed in a show competition
A selection of cucurbits of the South Korean Genebank in Suwon
Cucurbits on display at the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, with the title "Variedades de calabaza"

The most recent classification of Cucurbitaceae delineates 15 tribes:[6][7]

Alphabetical list of generaEdit


Modern molecular phylogenetics suggest the following relationships:[6][8][9][10][11][12]

Images of cucurbits in Byzantine mosaics from IsraelEdit

Round melons and elongated adzhur melons in Kursi church mosaic, Israel, near the Sea of Galilee

Six cucurbit crops are represented in 23 Byzantine-era mosaics from Israel, these being round melons (Cucumis melo), watermelons (Citrullus lanatus), sponge gourds (Luffa aegyptiaca), snake melons (faqqous, Cucumis melo flexuosus group), adzhur melons (C. melo adzhur group), and bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria). Cucurbits are represented in 23 of the 134 mosaics containing images of crop plants, a surprisingly high frequency of 17%. Several of the cucurbit images have not been found elsewhere, suggesting a diverse and highly developed local horticulture of cucurbits in Israel during the Byzantine era. Representations of mature sponge gourds are found in widespread localities, suggestive of the high value accorded to cleanliness and hygiene.[13]

Etymology and pronunciationEdit

The name Cucurbitaceae comes to international scientific vocabulary from New Latin, from Cucurbita, the type genus, + -aceae,[14] a standardized suffix for plant family names in modern taxonomy. The genus name comes from the Classical Latin word cucurbita, "gourd".


  1. ^ Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III" (PDF). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  2. ^ Christenhusz, M. J. M. & Byng, J. W. (2016). "The number of known plants species in the world and its annual increase". Phytotaxa. Magnolia Press. 261 (3): 201–217. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.261.3.1. 
  3. ^ "Cucurbits". Purdue University. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Angiosperm Phylogeny Website". 
  5. ^ Revisions to Roland Brown's North American Paleocene Flora by Steven R. Manchester at Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA. Published in Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae, Series B - Historia Naturalis, vol. 70, 2014, no. 3-4, pp. 153-210.
  6. ^ a b Schaefer H, Renner SS (2011). "Phylogenetic relationships in the order Cucurbitales and a new classification of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae)" (PDF). Taxon. 60 (1): 122–138. JSTOR 41059827. Archived from the original on 27 February 2017. 
  7. ^ Schaefer H, Kocyan A, Renner SS (2007). "Phylogenetics of Cucumis (Cucurbitaceae): Cucumber (C. sativus) belongs in an Asian/Australian clade far from melon (C. melo)". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 7: 58–69. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-58. PMC 3225884 . PMID 17425784. 
  8. ^ Zhang L-B, Simmons MP, Kocyan A, Renner SS (2006). "Phylogeny of the Cucurbitales based on DNA sequences of nine loci from three genomes: Implications for morphological and sexual system evolution" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 39 (2): 305–322. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.10.002. PMID 16293423. Archived from the original on 27 February 2017. 
  9. ^ Schaefer H, Heibl C, Renner SS (2009). "Gourds afloat: A dated phylogeny reveals an Asian origin of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) and numerous oversea dispersal events" (PDF). Proc Royal Soc B. 276: 843–851. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1447. PMC 2664369 . Archived from the original on 27 February 2017. 
  10. ^ de Boer HJ, Schaefer H, Thulin M, Renner SS (2012). "Evolution and loss of long-fringed petals: A case study using a dated phylogeny of the snake gourds, Trichosanthes (Cucurbitaceae)". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 12: 108. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-108. 
  11. ^ Belgrano MJ (2012). Estudio sistemático y biogeográfico del género Apodanthera Arn. (Cucurbitaceae) [Systematic and biogeographic study of the genus Apodanthera Arn. (Cucurbitaceae)] (Ph.D.). Universidad Nacional de La Plata. 
  12. ^ Renner SS, Schaefer H (2016). "Phylogeny and evolution of the Cucurbitaceae". In Grumet R, Katzir N, Garcia-Mas J. Genetics and Genomics of Cucurbitaceae. Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing. pp. 1–11. doi:10.1007/7397_2016_14. 
  13. ^ Avital, Anat; Paris, Harry S. (2014-08-01). "Cucurbits depicted in Byzantine mosaics from Israel, 350–600 ce". Annals of Botany. 114 (2): 203–222. doi:10.1093/aob/mcu106. ISSN 0305-7364. 
  14. ^ Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, Merriam-Webster. 

Additional readingEdit

  • Bates D, Robinson R, Jeffrey C, eds. (1990). Biology and Utilization of the Cucurbitaceae. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-1670-1. 
  • Jeffrey C. (2005). "A new system of Cucurbitaceae". Bot. Zhurn. 90: 332–335. 

External linksEdit