Cucurbit Cucurbitaceae or cucurbits are a family of plants that includes, but is not limited to, the squashes (Cucurbita), watermelons (Citrullus/Citrullus lanatus), gourds (Luffa/Luffa spp.), and cucumbers (Cucumis/Cucumis sativus). The leaves of these plants are compound with deep cuts separating the leaflets. Cucurbits are often recognized by their large, spiny thorns at the end of shoots and lobed or divided compound leaves.
Cucurbits are a type of plant with a vining habit that includes a wide variety of gourds, squashes, and melons. These crops can generally trace their root back to the genus Cucurbita, which is part of the larger grouping of plants called cucurbits or cucurbitaceae. There are about 90 species within the genus Cucurbita, of which only 5 are used for domesticated produce.
The leaves of many cucurbits are lobed or divided into leaflets with deep cuts separating them. This shape of the leaf is sometimes called 'compound' although it is not truly 'compound' as the leaflets are themselves lobed. In some species, such as cucumbers, these lobes can be quite pronounced and range from being small and rounded to have a lot of sharp angles that give them a jagged edge.
In addition to their compound leaves, many have large prickly thorns at the end of their shoots that give these plants a distinctive appearance. In some species, such as cucumbers and gourds, this thorny appearance can be quite pronounced and may even cover the entire plant. In other species, such as squash, thorns are less dramatic but they still make these plants stand out from other garden crops since they are the only ones that have these prickly parts.
Cucurbits are a very important part of many agricultural systems. They have been cultivated for thousands of years in native Central America and the Caribbean and have since spread throughout the world (Facciola, 1998). Cucumber and squash were introduced to Europe in the 15th century and melons came not long after. With their excellent flavor and unique appearance, these crops became very popular and were quickly spread throughout the world. Today, cucurbits are a favorite garden crop for home growers around the world.
Cucurbits are a unique type of plant that has leaves divided into very sharp lobes, large spines at the end of their shoots, and an appearance that is distinctly different than many other garden crops.