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Buffalo Gourd Cucurbita foetidissima


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Buffalo Gourd - habit and immature fruit
credit: Geographer/CCSA

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Alternate name: Missouri Gourd

Family: Cucurbitaceae, Cucumber view all from this family

Description A hairy malodorous plant, smelling of onion, with large, gray-green, triangular leaves growing along long, prostrate stems.
Habit: native annual or perennial, vine or herb; stems usually trailing, sometimes climbing, rough-hairy, angled, branching; taprooted.
Height: stems to 30 ft (9 m) long.
Leaf: alternate, thick, rough, sharply toothed, narrowly triangular to ovate, entire to palmately lobed, stalked, 4-12 in (10-30 cm) long.
Flower: bell-shaped, bright yellow to orange, 5-parted, 3.5-5 in (9-12 cm) long, almost as wide; male and female flowers on same plant; daylily-like.
Fruit: spherical gourd, mottled green with pale green stripes, maturing to lemon yellow; to 3 in (75 mm) diameter.

Warning The foul-tasting mature fruit is poisonous to humans if eaten. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower April to September.

Habitat Dry, sandy or gravelly places; fields, waste places, fence rows, railways, roadsides; to 4200 ft (1300 m).

Range Native to the desert southwest, from southern and central California to northeast Texas and into Mexico; introduced and naturalized to the north and east; now found from California east to Texas, northeast to Arkansas, Kentucky, and Ohio, west to Wisconsn, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Nevada; also reported in Virginia and Florida.

Discussion Also called stink(ing) gourd, Missouri gourd, wild gourd, calabazilla, coyote melon, wild pumpkin. Considered weedy or invasive in some areas.