Coyote Melon, Coyote Gourd

Cucurbita palmata

Cucurbita palmata, Photo by Lara Hartley

Color: Yellow

Common name: Coyote Gourd, Coyote Melon

Latin name: Cucurbita palmata


Height: Low to the ground

Cucurbita palmata, Photo by Lara Hartley

Description: Cucurbita palmata is a sprawling vine with the above-the-ground part of the plant rough to the touch usually owing to short, stiff hairs. The stiff, curling yellow flowers are 6-8 cm wide. The plant bears smooth spherical or almost spherical squash fruits 8 to 10 centimeters wide. The fruits ripen from green with greenish-white stripes to bright yellow and then pale gold when the gourd is dry.

Leaf: The dark green, light-veined leaves are sharply palmate with usually five long triangular points.

Range: Southwestern California, Desert, San Joaquin Valley, Central Western California

Habitat: Sandy places

Elevation: < 1300 m.

Flowering time: Apr–Sep

Notes: Cucurbita palmata, a dicot, is an annual or perennial herb that is native to California and is also found outside of California, but is confined to western North America. "The striped, green gourds are fibrous and unpalatable inside, but ground seeds were eaten by native Indians, and the dried gourds were used as rattles in dances. During fall when the melons are ripe and plentiful, the flat, watermelon-like seeds are often found in coyote scat." The gourds are often used by artists to make bowels and other decorative arts. Photographed May 2004 on Camp Rock Road and September 2011 near Daggett in San Bernardino County, Calif.

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