Cucumbers, Melons and Gourds

Pumpkin Bur Cucumber Pumpkin Bur Cucumber

What are they?

A family of mostly tropical climbing plants, many of which are now familiar to us as food crops. This family contains the familiar cucumbers, gourds and melons as well as some less well-known, wild relatives. Most are climbing plants, though as crops they are often left to trail on the ground.

Where are they found?

Crop species can sometimes be found growing from seeds that were left in abandoned garden refuse or as relicts of old agricultural crops. Such plants may be chanced upon almost anywhere, especially on roadsides or patches of waste ground. Wild species are most often found straggling over other plants in scrubby areas or along scrubby field margins.


Most species are easily told by differences in their fruit, but there are also differences in leaf type and flower to a varying degree.

Bur Cucumber      Echinocystis lobata

(Wild Cucumber) Found along shady, often damp, hedgelines and woodland margins. Flowers August to October. Like many members of the family, this is a climbing plant, which climbs by the use of corkscrew-like tendrils. Male and female flowers hang in separate clusters, adjacent to each other, the male flowers usually greater in number. The petals are joined at the base at cut at the top into usually 6-8 segments.
Bur Cucumber Bur Cucumber Bur Cucumber Bur Cucumber
Male flowers
Female flower

Pumpkin      Cucurbita maxima

The most commonly grown member of this family in the region. Flowers throughout summer and into fall. Fruits are the well-known Pumpkin.
Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin
Young flower
Mature flower

Cantaloupe      Cucumis melo

Quite commonly grown as a garden plant and likely to be found occasionally as a short-lived annual wherever household rubbish in dumped. Flowers throughout summer and into fall. Fruits are the well-known melons of various varieties.
Cantaloupe Cantaloupe Cantaloupe Cantaloupe