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Published In: Publications of the Field Museum of Natural History, Botanical Series 3(3): 435. 1930. (11 Sept 1930) (Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser.) Name publication detailView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 8/11/2017)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project Data     (Last Modified On 7/9/2009)
Status: Introduced


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1. Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standl. (bottle gourd, calabash, white-flowered gourd)

Map 1629, Pl. 371 c

Plants monoecious annual vines with taproots, usually producing a musky aroma when crushed or bruised. Stems to 5 m or more long, relatively stout (2–6 mm in diameter), densely pubescent with short and/or long, sometimes somewhat matted, spreading hairs, not roughened, the hairs minutely gland-tipped and sticky, the tendrils branched. Leaves mostly long-petiolate, the petiole 2–15 cm long, with a pair of distinctive, large, disc-shaped glands at the tip, with dense, spreading, sticky hairs. Leaf blades 4–20 cm long, 3–18 cm wide, ovate to more or less heart-shaped or kidney-shaped in outline, unlobed or more commonly shallowly 3- or 5-lobed, the lobes mostly broadly triangular, with bluntly or more commonly sharply pointed tips (occasionally tapered into a narrowly triangular, elongate point) and usually broadly rounded (much more than 90°) sinuses, cordate at the base, the margins otherwise irregularly and finely toothed and often somewhat wavy, the surfaces moderately to more commonly densely pubescent with short, tapered, soft hairs, 1 or both surfaces sometimes appearing somewhat grayish-tinged. Flowers solitary or paired in the leaf axils, the stalks 2–30 mm long. Calyx lobes 2–9 mm long (longer elsewhere). Corollas 40–100 mm wide, broadly bell-shaped to nearly saucer-shaped, the 5 lobes 15–30 mm long, white, sometimes with darker veins or cream-colored toward the base. Staminate flowers with the stamens free or the filaments sometimes partially fused (the anthers often appearing fused into a headlike mass). Pistillate flowers usually with 3 small staminodes, the ovary with numerous ovules per placenta, the stigma 3-lobed. Fruits solitary, modified berries mostly 10–40 cm long (but sometimes longer in cultivated plants), with a pulpy, fibrous central portion, at least when young (drying out as the fruit matures), and a relatively thick, hardened shell, indehiscent, highly variable in shape, the fruit body often abruptly tapered to an elongate, cylindrical basal portion, with a stalk 15–40 mm long, the surface glabrous at maturity, usually smooth (lacking prickles or warty outgrowths), green, often mottled or with irregular, longitudinal, light green or white stripes, becoming bleached to a yellow or tan color, more or less dull. Seeds numerous, 12–22 mm long, 6–15 mm wide, somewhat rectangular to broadly wedge-shaped in outline, the main body separated from a pair of thick, corky wings by longitudinal grooves or ridges on each face, flattened, mostly appearing notched or somewhat 3-lobed at the tip by extensions of the wings, the surface smooth to somewhat wrinkled (especially on the wings), tan to dark brown, dull or occasionally somewhat shiny. 2n=22. August–October.

Introduced, uncommon and sporadic (cultigen of African origin, introduced nearly worldwide, including the southern and eastern U.S.). Banks of streams and rivers; also railroads.

Fruits of Lagenaria have harder and more durable walls than those of the Cucurbita gourds. They have an extremely long history of use. The native range of the species apparently was in southern or eastern Africa, but the bottle gourd also was one of the earliest plants domesticated in the New World, with archaeological remains from Peru, Mexico, and Florida documenting its use up to 13,000 years ago (Heiser, 1979; Robinson and Decker-Walters, 1990), which predates the cultivation of maize and the manufacture of clay pottery. Lagenaria gourds can float in seawater, and the seeds remain viable for many months, thus the fruits may have drifted to the New World on ocean currents. Alternatively, the first Americans may have brought the species with them when they migrated to the New World across the Bering land bridge toward the end of the last Ice Age. Lagenaria produces gourds in a bewildering array of shapes and sizes, which have been used to make bottles, drinking cups, bowls, plates, ladles, pails, calabash pipes, snuffboxes, floats for fishing nets, musical instruments, birdhouses, ceremonial masks, and other handicrafts, sometimes with intricate engraving. Young fruits can be eaten like zucchini. Nonbitter edible races are known, and some are used for their oily edible seeds. The plants also have been used in various ways medicinally for a variety of ailments, as a purgative, and in the repair of skull fractures (Heiser, 1979). The white flowers open at night.

Several attempts have been made to divide L. siceraria into subspecies and varieties based on morphological differences in various parts of the plants, including leaf shape, flower size, fruit size and shape, and seed morphology. In part because of recent artificial hybridizations made between strains by plant breeders, formal taxonomic recognition seems unwarranted. However, recognition of a range of cultivars seems appropriate. Heiser (1973, 1979) grew plants of numerous accessions from nearly throughout the cultivated range of the species and followed Kobiakova (1930) in accepting two major lineages, those from Africa and the Americas, and those of Asian origin. Unfortunately, his use of the epithet ssp. asiatica for plants of the latter group appears to have been illegitimate, and this combination has not been validly published since then.



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