Cucurbitaceae

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Squash Family

Melothria scabra Naudin, a vine in the Cucurbitaceae. Note the tendril position. Un bejuco. Note la posición del zarcillo.


Description: An unmistakable family of vines and lianas. The leaves are alternate, palmately veined and sometimes palmately lobed to palmately compound, with tendrils borne at the nodes, 90° from the petiole base. Leaf morphology can be highly variable even within one plant, but the placement of the strongly coiling tendril is unvarying.

Economic uses: Cultivated species of Cucurbitaceae give us cucumbers, squash, zucchini, gourds, chayote, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc. The fruits of Momordica charantia, an herbaceous vine, are used to treat diabetes in Central American folk medicine (Ocampo and Maffioli 1985).


Descripción: Una familia inconfundible de bejucos, algunos leñosos. Las hojas son alternas, con venas palmadas y algunas veces palmaticompuestas o palmatilobuladas, con zarcillos que salen de los nudos con un ángulo de 90° de la base del pecíolo. La forma de la hoja puede variar, aun en la misma rama de una planta, pero la posición del zarcillo no varia.

Usos económicos: Especies cultivadas de las Cucurbitaceas incluyen el chayote, el pepino, la calabaza, la sandía, y otras. En la medicina tradicional de Centroamérica, se usan los frutos del bejuco herbaceo Momordica charantia en casos de diabetes (Ocampo y Maffioli 1985).


Genera/species at La Selva: 14/20: Cayaponia (3), Cucumis (1), Cyclanthera (1), Cyonosicys (1), Elateriopsis (1), Fevillea (1), Gurania (2), Melothria (3), Momordica (1), Polyclathra (1), Psiguria (2), Sechium (1), Selysia (1), Sicydium (1).



FIELD MARKS – vines with alternate leaves, palmate venation, tendrils 90° to petiole base.



Momordica charantia with deeply lobed leaves, tightly coiled tendrils, and squash-like flowers. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Momordica charantia with deeply lobed leaves, tightly coiled tendrils, and squash-like flowers. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Alernate leaves and tendrils originating at a 90° angle from the petiole identify this vine as a member of the Cucurbitaceae.
Gurania coccinea liana in flower.


< < Previous family: Costaceae
Next family: Cyclanthaceae > >
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