Wild Florida Photo - Cucurbita okeechobeensis

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Cucurbita okeechobeensis


Florida native

Endemic to Florida

Endangered Florida species

U.S. Endangered species

A rare vine of floodplain forests, once locally abundant in the pond apple forests around Lake Okeechobee, now found in only scattered locations there and along the St. Johns River in central Florida. This Florida endemic species that occurs only in Galdes, Palm Beach, Lake, Volusia and Seminole Counties is closely related to the more common Martinez gourd of Mexico, which is now considered a subspecies of the Okeechobee gourd.
This slender stemmed vine grows over the ground and other vegetation, climbing up trees to 12 meters (40') high. Long twisting tendrils are paired with the alternate broadly heart-shaped leaves. Leaves are rough-hairy, slightly to deeply 5 to 7 lobed, with serrated margins. The flowers are bell-shaped, with a 6-7.5 cm (2.5 - 3 in.) long ribbed tube, five rounded yellowish lobes and a cream-colored center. Flowers open early in the morning, closing by mid to late morning and appear mostly from late spring to early summer but continuing into mid-fall. One of the identifying features of this species - along with the light inside - is a dense pubescence on the hypanthium of male flowers and the ovary of the female flowers. The fruit is a globular or slightly oblong light green gourd with 10 pale indistinct stripes when mature and up to 8cm (3") in diameter.
Specific pollinators have not been identified.

Cucurbita okeechobeensis is a member of the Cucurbitaceae - Cucumber family.