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Coyote Melon

Coyote Melon
Cucurbita palmata

Family:

Cucurbitaceae, Gourd Family

Form:

Annual or perennial herbaceous vine

Range:

Southern California, southern Nevada, western Arizona, northern Baja California and Sonora, Mexico

Habitat:

Sandy places below 4,000 feet elevation; Creosote Bush Scrub, Coastal Sage Scrub, Valley Grassland

Living Desert Location:

Coyote Exhibit

Factoid:

The three inch wide flowers open before dawn and wilt by late morning.

Coyote Melon may be recognized by its rough, stiff-haired stems and large, palmate shaped leaves sprawling over sandy areas or climbing via tendrils into surrounding vegetation. It may also be easily distinguished by its three-inch, dull green, spheroid gourds with pale yellow vertical stripes. As the gourds mature they become straw colored.

Flowering time is April through September. The flowers are a beautiful combination of gold, yellow and orange. The pulp within the fruit is unpalatable, but was utilized by native people and during the depression, for soap. Clothing laundered with the soap reportedly helps to repel body lice.

The seeds are edible, unlike the pulp, and contain value as a source of protein (31%), and cooking oil (30%). The dried gourds have been used as rattles and containers. After the plant has gone to fruit, the stems dry up and wither away, later to re-sprout from the tuberous root once sufficient rains return.

Coyote melon can be used as an attractive and effective herbaceous ground cover in the garden. Incorporating this Coachella Valley native in a landscape provides nectar to various invertebrates including at least two of its more effective pollinators – Peponapis and Xenoglossa, the squash or gourd bees.

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