Mystery: Pumpkin, Squash or Gourd?

I know… it’s August, why am I bringing up pumpkins? Well, there’s some kind of gigantic cucurbit vine growing in my front garden. 

The plant started off very small. It was growing in shade, under my Echinacea. So I thought it would die off.  But it did not. It’s been getting bigger and bigger each week. The leaves are now 17 inches long and the vine is spreading at an exponential rate.

Pumpkin, Squash Gourd

From what I can see, there are almost six large female flowers. Females have a small ball attached to the flower base. Males grow directly from the stem. Each female can become a fruit. Interestly, I read that gourds cross pollinate easily and that’s why they can be so diverse in appearance.

The plant has been a topic of conversation with passersby and with friends hanging out on the porch. The consensus is, the seed –  of whatever this is – was dropped last year by “my” squirrel (aptly dubbed Bigmouth), who feasts on my gorgeous fall harvest display every year. My thoughtful arrangement includes a varied mix of pumpkins, gourds and corn stalks. 

I’ve written two columns about Bigmouth in past years. We’ve had a tumultuous relationship. Initially I was livid that he was destroying my lovely and expensive decor. I despised him. But as time went on, I got to know Bigmouth. I’d watch him eat breakfast while I sipped my morning coffee on the porch. I started leaving him nuts and seeds so he wouldn’t eat my decorative arrangement. It kinda worked. Our relationship blossomed into a strong friendship based around food. He is also really cute.

I knew Bigmouth’s favorite meal was pumpkin seeds (besides Halloween chocolate), so I assumed the mystery vine was a pumpkin. And guessed, based on the size of the plant.  After speaking to fellow gardeners and researching the internet though, the investigation developed.  It seems the leaves are more akin to a gourd rather than a pumpkin. I found one picture online that’s spot-on but the photo is not specifically identified. The gourd in question is oval, dark green and speckled. 

Pumpkin Squash or Gourd

I remember the gourds I had last year and they were beautiful in color and shape. There are over 700 different species of gourds which doesn’t help narrow things down. I suppose only time will truly reveal the mystery.  I will update you as the plot thickens!

tagged in fall, garden, squirrel