Vegetable Seed Production
Family: Cucurbitaceae

Cantaloupe :: Watermelon :: Cucumber :: Pumpkin
In addition to reading the information in this section, please view this narrated video on Cucurbit seed production

(The video will open in a new window.)

Common Name: Cantaloupe and mixed melons
Scientific Name: Cucumis melo
Family: Cucurbitaceae

Cantaloupe introduction & history

There are two important Groups (formerly botanic varieties) classified under Cucumis melo. The Group Inodorus contains the so called "winter melons" like Casaba, Persian, Canary, Honeydew, Crenshaw, and Santa Claus that do not abscise from the vine at maturity, lack heavy netting, are generally less aromatic, and have slightly longer storage life than the Reticulatus group. One exception to this description is that the Crenshaws have a short shelf life and can be very odoriferous. The Group Reticulatus contains both western shipping and eastern shipping cultivars of muskmelon. The term muskmelon is preferred to cantaloupe which more correctly refers to the Cantalupensis Group of Cucumis melo that is generally not grown in the US. In recent years, the term cantaloupe is sometimes used in the vegetable trade to refer to the western shipping cultivars of muskmelon like PMR 45 and Topscore, while muskmelon is used by tradesmen to refer to larger fruited eastern cultivars. Reticulatus and Inodorus can freely cross and this is how the cultivar honeyloupe was created.

Please note that netted and winter melons are in the same genus as cucumber so a number of characteristics for these crops are similar. Commercial types are warm-season (frost sensitive) annuals that are cross pollinated by bees. Sex expression is andromonoecious. Commercial plants are day-neutral. Plant habit is vining with varied internode length.

Melons appear indigenous to Africa. Truly wild forms found only in eastern tropical Africa (south of Sahara). Related wild forms reported are reported in India, are likely undomesticated escapes derived from local cultivars.

Once domesticated, melon diversity expanded into numerous cultivars, especially in India (considered a secondary center of origin). Cultivars were rapidly dispersed throughout Europe and fairly early into the Americas.

  • Oldest Record (?) Egyptian 2400 B.C. Musk = Persian word for a kind of perfume
  • Known to Greeks about 300 B.C.
  • Known in Spain 1400
  • Reported Columbus carried seed to New World 1494
  • Introduced by Spaniards to Americas in late 1500's
  • North America natives growing muskmelons during 1660's
  • Introduced to California in 1683

Presently grown fruit probably shares same main characteristics of earlier cultivars although greatly improved for uniformity, size, shape, flesh thickness, and quality. Strongest contribution to commercial melon development from Colorado, i.e., Rocky Ford strains (dev. from Netted Gem, intro by Burpee from France about 1880). Transport of fruit of no importance until after 1900.

Cantaloupe Seed Production and Identification page

Common Name: Watermelon
Scientific Name: Citrullus lanatus
Family: Cucurbitaceae

Watermelon introduction & history

Watermelon is another cucurbit that is familiar to most students. Some cultivars are suited for specific production regions and uses. Watermelon is a warm season, frost sensitive, annual crop that matures ripe fruit from 75 to 110 days after planting. Watermelons are monoecious and require bees to pollinate. Watermelon plants have distinctive deeply lobed leaves. Although there are short internode bush cultivars available, most commercial cultivars produce vines and need space to grow. Watermelons can be planted in rows or hills. As a general rule, rows are spaced 6 or 7 feet apart with hills (a group of seeds) containing 3 or 4 seeds each placed 3 to 4 feet apart within the rows. After emergence, hills are thinned to 2 or 3 plants per hill. Alternatively, seeds may be planted 4 to 6 inches apart in the row and later thinned to an in-row spacing of 1 plant per foot. Watermelons do not transplant well as bare-rooted plants. Seedless watermelons are transplanted from plugs because they germinate poorly in the field. In some areas such as Florida, watermelons are grown using drip irrigation and plasticulture mulch. In other regions, no mulch is used. For greatest productivity, watermelons should be irrigated. Texas produces the largest acreage of watermelons in the US followed by Florida. China is the largest producer of watermelons in the world.

Watermelon Seed Production and Identification page

Common Name: Cucumber
Scientific Name: Cucumis sativus
Family: Cucurbitaceae

Cucumber introduction & history

Commercial types are warm-season (frost sensitive) annuals that are cross pollinated by bees. Some cultivars will set fruit without pollination and are called parthenocarpic. Parthenocarpic cultivars are commonly used for greenhouse production. Sex expression varies with cultivar and is one of the most important characteristics regarding cultivar selection. Commercial plants are day-neutral but day length may alter sex expression as described below. Plant habit is vining with varied internode length. Tendrils at each node help anchor plants and allow plants to climb on supports. Flowers have 5 yellow petals that are open for a single day.

Believed to have originated in India. Spread to China and Greece about 2000 years ago. Brought to Americas in 1494 and spread rapidly among native people. Wild cucumber plants grow in the Southeastern U.S.

Cucumber Seed Identification page

Common Name: Pumpkin and squash
Scientific Name: Cucurbita pepo
Family: Cucurbitaceae

Pumpkin introduction & history

Pumpkin and squash are also members of the family Cucurbitaceae. Pumpkins are somewhat unique because many are used for ornamental purposes rather than eaten as a vegetable. Differences between pumpkin and squash have never been clearly or satisfactorily resolved. Culinary definitions are most often used and definitions based on botanical differences between pumpkin and squash have not been widely accepted. In some large pumpkin competitions, only C. pepo are considered as true pumpkins and all C. maxima are considered as squash but this is by no means universal.

Warm-season, frost sensitive annuals

  • Cucurbita pepo L., - Pumpkin, Winter squash, Summer squash, Gourds
  • Cucurbita moschata - Duch., Pumpkin, Winter squash
  • Cucurbita maxima - Duch., Pumpkin, Winter squash
  • Cucurbita argyrosperma - Pang., Pumpkin, Gourds
  • Cucurbita ficifolia - Bouche, Malabar or Figleaf Gourd (not widely grown in US)


  • Cucurbita foetidissima HBK, Buffalo gourd

Pumpkin and Squash Seed Production and Identification page