Cucurbita foetidissima

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Cucurbita foetidissima
Cucurbita foetidissima compose.jpg
Buffalo gourd plant, male flower and fruits.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Cucurbita
Species: C. foetidissima
Binomial name
Cucurbita foetidissima
Kunth in Humb.[1]

Cucurbita foetidissima, has numerous common names, including: buffalo gourd,[1] calabazilla,[1] chilicote, coyote gourd, fetid gourd, fetid wild pumpkin,[1] Missouri gourd,[1] prairie gourd,[3] stinking gourd, wild gourd,[1] and wild pumpkin.[1] The plant is tuberous and a true xerophytic plant found in the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico.[4] The type specimen was collected from Mexico by Humboldt and Bonpland sometime before 1817.[1]

The feral perennial Buffalo gourd has evolved in the semiarid regions and is well adapted to desert environments. It has abundant yields of oil, protein and carbohydrates.[5] The carbohydrates that are formed in the tap root have led to the idea to grow the plant for biofuel.[6][7]

The fruit is consumed by humans and animals. When the fruit is mature, a stage marked by increasing desiccation of vine, leaves, fruit-stem, and fruit itself, it begins its final gourd stage.

Geographic location and genetics make it highly likely that Cucurbita scabridifolia is a naturally occurring hybrid of C. foetidissima and Cucurbita pedatifolia.[8]

Morphology and cultivation[edit]

Buffalo gourd in Albuquerque, NM

Cucurbita foetidissima requires little water and grows most rapidly in semiarid and arid environments.[9] Warm weather is required during the vegetation period which is 5 to 8 months.[5][10] This perennial is well adapted to marginal agricultural lands like sandy loam soils which have to be well drained.[10][11] Germination temperature range is between 15 °C and 37 °C with an optimum at 25 °C.[12]

The maximum depth for a successful germination is 12 cm.[12] The germination is possible in a pH range from 2.2 (germination rate 15% ) up to pH 8 (germination rate 90%).[12] Asexual propagation is possible from nodal roots.[10]

The leaves of the buffalo gourd are typically entire and heart shaped with a 10–13 cm base and 20–25 cm length. The flowers are borne singly at the nodes of the vines after a given amount of annual vegetative growth has taken place.[5]

The fruit has a diameter of 7–10 cm,[12] the fruit weight is 120 g to 150 g and number of seed per fruit of 292 to 315.[5] The seeds weigh about 4 g per 100 seeds and the seeds are 12 mm long and 7 mm wide.[10] The seed coat accounts for about 30% of the seed weight.[5] The seeds often remain viable for months or even years within an undamaged gourd.[5] One hectare of can produce 2.5 tons of seed.[10]

A fleshy tap root is formed by the plant which is used as a storage and overwintering structure.[12] The central tap root can weight up to 72 kg. A four-year-old root grown under cultivation can reach a fresh weight of 45 kg and a length of 2.5 meters.[5]


Cucurbita foetidissima is native to North America in the U.S. (Arizona; Arkansas; southern California; Colorado; Kansas; Missouri; southern Nebraska; Southern Nevada, New Mexico; Oklahoma; Texas; and southern Utah) and Mexico (Aguascalientes; Chihuahua; Coahuila; Guanajuato; Guerrero; Hidalgo; northern Jalisco; Mexico; Nuevo León; Querétaro; San Luis Potosí; Sonora; Tamaulipas; and Zacatecas)[3]


The buffalo gourd has the potential of being a crop adapted to arid to semiarid lands, producing additional food critically needed to feed the world population[5]

  • Fresh gourd: The fresh young gourd can be eaten like squash. When the fruit is mature its not edible anymore due to bitter compounds.
  • Oil: The extractable oil content in whole seeds reaches from 24.3 %[5] to 50%.[13] Linoleic acid, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid, comprises 38% to 65% of the oil.[5] A characterization of the oils from buffalo gourd indicates that this oil is similar to other common edible oils.[14]
  • Protein: Whole Buffalo gourd seeds contain approximately 31% crude protein. This protein is usable for human consumption and for feed.
  • Starch: Is mainly located in the tap root which get formed after the first year of growth. The starch content in the dried root is between 47.5 %[11] and 56%.[5]
  • Fodder: Fresh leafs or the whole plants can be used as animal food.
  • Biofuel: Biodiesel can be produced from the oil in the seeds.[15] But the main interest to produce renewable fuels is to produce biofuel with the carbohydrates which are located in the tap root.
  • Other uses: In many Native American cultures the fruit and other parts of the plant, Buffalo gourd oil, were used for soap.[16] Furthermore the protein can be used for industrial purposes (water paints, paper coating, adhesives and textile sizing).[5][10] The Zuni people use a poultice of powdered seeds, flowers and saliva for swellings. [17]


Various insects may penetrate the hard skin of the gourd. External structures appear to prevent damage by most insects and the plant is highly resistant to cucumber beetle and squash bug.[10] White molds seem to result in smooth surface areas and black molds often form circular patterns.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Cucurbita foetidissima was originally described and published in Nova Genera et Species Plantarum (quarto ed.) 2: 123. 1817. "Name - Cucurbita foetidissima Kunth". Tropicos. Saint Louis, Missouri: Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ "TPL, treatment of Cucurbita foetidissima Kunth". The Plant List; Version 1. (published on the internet). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. 2010. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b GRIN (February 12, 2010). "Cucurbita foetidissima information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  4. ^ Bemis, W. P.; Whitaker, Thomas W. (April 1969). "The Xerophytic Cucurbita of Northwestern Mexico and Southwestern United States". Madroño (California Botanical Society) 20 (2): 33–41. JSTOR 41423342.  edit
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l J. Bemis, L. Curtis, C. Weber and J. Berry, 1978. The Feral Buffalo Gourd, Cucurbita foeti. Economic Botany 1: 87-95
  6. ^ Smeal, D. (1997). "Carbohydrate biofuels. III. Consumptive-use and root yield of buffalo gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima HBK)". Fuel and Energy Abstracts 38 (5): 325. doi:10.1016/S0140-6701(97)81177-0. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  7. ^ Blume, David (2007). Alcohol Can Be a Gas! Fueling an Ethanol Revolution for the 21st Century. The International Institute For Ecological Agriculture. 
  8. ^ Andres, Thomas C. (1987). "Relationship of Cucurbita scabridifolia to C. foetidissima and C. pedatifolia: A Case of Natural Interspecific Hybridization". Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University) 10: 74–75. 
  9. ^ J. Berry , J. Bemis , C. Weber , T. Philip, 1978. Cucurbit Root Starches: Isolation and Some Properties of Starches from Cucurbita foetidissima HBK and Cucurbita digitata Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 4: 825–826
  10. ^ a b c d e f g J. Bemis, Underexploited Tropical Plants with Promising Economic Value, National Research Council, 1975, 94-99, isbn= 978-0-89499-186-8
  11. ^ a b J. Nelson, J. Scheerens, D. Bucks and J. Berry, 1989. Irrigation Effects on Water Use, and Production of Tap Roots and Starch of Buffalo Agronomy Journal 81: 439-442
  12. ^ a b c d e M. Horak and J. Sweat, 1994. Germination, Emergence, and Seedling Establishment of Buffalo Gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima) Weed Science Society of America 42: 358-363
  13. ^ J. Berry , J Bemis , C. Weber , T. Philip (1975). "Cucurbit Root Starches: Isolation and Some Properties of Starches from Cucurbita foetidissima HBK and Cucurbita digital". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 23 (4): 825–826. doi:10.1021/jf60200a020. 
  14. ^ J. Vasconcellos, J. Berry, C. Weber, J. Bemis, J. Scheerens (1980). "The properties of Cucurbita foetidissima seed oil". Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society 57 (9): 310–313. doi:10.1007/bf02662214. 
  15. ^ A. Kurki, A. Hill, 2006. Biodiesel: The Sustainability Dimensions ATTRA 3: 458-467
  16. ^ Lowell J. Bean and Katherine Siva Saubel (1972). Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants. Malki Museum Press, Morongo Indian Reservation. p. 57. 
  17. ^ Camazine, Scott and Robert A. Bye 1980 A Study Of The Medical Ethnobotany Of The Zuni Indians of New Mexico. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2:365-388 (p. 375)

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