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

See text.

The Cucurbitaceae (/kjˌkɜːrbɪˈtsˌ/),[2] also called cucurbits or the gourd family, are a plant family consisting of about 965 species in around 95 genera.[3] Those most important to humans are the following:[citation needed]

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 family Cucurbitaceae ranks among the highest of plant families for number and percentage of species used as human food.[4] The name Cucurbitaceae comes to international scientific vocabulary from Neo-Latin, from Cucurbita, the type genus, + -aceae,[5] a standardized suffix for plant family names in modern taxonomy. The genus name comes from the Classical Latin word cucurbita, meaning "gourd".


Flower of Lagenaria captured at night

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.[6]: 2 

Fossil history[edit]

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.[7]


Tribal classification[edit]

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:[8][9]


Modern molecular phylogenetics suggest the following relationships:[8][10][11][12][13][14]

Pests and diseases[edit]

Sweet potato whitefly is the vector of a number of cucurbit viruses that cause yellowing symptoms throughout the southern United States.[15]


  1. ^ Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2). Linnean Society of London: 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x. hdl:10654/18083.
  2. ^ "Cucurbitaceae". Dictionary.
  3. ^ Christenhusz, M. J. M. & Byng, J. W. (2016). "The number of known plants species in the world and its annual increase". Phytotaxa. 261 (3): 201–217. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.261.3.1.
  4. ^ "Cucurbits". Purdue University. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  5. ^ "Cucurbitaceae". Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 2020-05-25. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  6. ^ Schaefer, Hanno; Acevedo-Rodríguez, Pedro. "Guide to the genera of lianas and climbing plants in the neotropics" (PDF). Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b Schaefer H, Renner SS (2011). "Phylogenetic relationships in the order Cucurbitales and a new classification of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae)". Taxon. 60 (1): 122–138. doi:10.1002/tax.601011. JSTOR 41059827.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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 (PDF) from the original on 2013-09-08.
  11. ^ 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". Proc R Soc B. 276 (1658): 843–851. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1447. PMC 2664369. PMID 19033142.
  12. ^ 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. PMC 3502538. PMID 22759528.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Renner SS, Schaefer H (2016). "Phylogeny and evolution of the Cucurbitaceae". In Grumet R, Katzir N, Garcia-Mas J (eds.). Genetics and Genomics of Cucurbitaceae. Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models. Vol. 20. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing. pp. 1–11. doi:10.1007/7397_2016_14. ISBN 978-3-319-49330-5.
  15. ^ Wintermantel, William M. "Whitefly-Transmitted Yellowing Viruses of Cucurbit Crops". American Phytopathological Society. doi:10.1094/grow-cuc-08-20-006. S2CID 242003450.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bates D, Robinson R, Jeffrey C, eds. (1990). Biology and Utilization of the Cucurbitaceae. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-1670-5.
  • Jeffrey C. (2005). "A new system of Cucurbitaceae". Bot. Zhurn. 90: 332–335.

External links[edit]

  • Cucurbitaceae in T.C. Andres (1995 onwards).
  • Cucurbitaceae in L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz (1992 onwards). The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, information retrieval.