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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Cucurbita (pumpkin, squash, marrow genus)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Cucurbitales > Family: Cucurbitaceae

About 27 species, native to the warmer regions of the Americas. Three well-known, domesticated vegetable species are in this genus and cultivated in southern Africa, namely Cucurbita maxima (Hubbard Squash and others), Cucurbita moschata (Butternut) and Cucurbita pepo (Pumpkin, Gem Squash, Marrow, Courgette)

Species cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002).

Cucurbita maxima (Hubbard Squash and others)

Cucurbita maxima originates from temperate South America where it was domesticated from Cucurbita andreana which is native to Argentina and Uruguay. The earliest archaeological remains are from 1800 BC in Peru. There are a wide variety of cultivars with Hubbard being the most commonly encountered in southern Africa. Varieties of Cucurbita maxima can be distinguished from those of Cucurbita pepo by soft rounded stems, not angular and bristly. Fruit have high levels of minerals and Vitamin A.


Cucurbita moschata (Butternut)

Cucurbita moschata was domesticated from a wild species in the region from southern Mexico to northern and western South America. Archaeological remains dating to about 2000 BC have been found in Peru. There are varieities other than Butternut but the latter is the most commonly encountered in southern Africa. Butternut is cooked and eaten as a vegetable and is commonly made into a tasty soup.

Cucurbita pepo (Pumpkin, Gem Squash, Marrow, Courgette)

Cucurbita pepo was domesticated in North America from wild Cucurbita texana, occurring in the south central USA, and Cucurbita fraterna, occurring in northeastern Mexico. It has angled stems with prickles whereas those of Cucurbita maxima (Pumpkin, Hubbard squash) are soft and rounded. From archeological excavations in Mexico, domestication can be dated back to about 8000 BC. Squashes were introduced to Europe by returning Spanish explorers in the 1500's. They are eaten cooked as a vegetable. The seeds are nutritious in that they are rich in zinc and omega 3 oils.