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Okeechobee Gourd

Just yesterday I found out about a wonderful little gourd that is sadly endangered. This is the OkeeChobee Gourd Cucurbita okeechobeensis. I was doing a google image search for gourd plants and this cute image just happened to turn up.

This little vine is only found along lake Okeechobee in Florida and the St. John's River. It may have been more abundant at one time but because of habitat loss it's now very rare. This is a very interesting article about the rediscovery on the St. John's River. I am happy to see that William Bartram is getting some credit for possibly being the first to document this cucurbit. William Bartram was one of the last true naturalists and one of the first along with his father in America. Few people had set out to catalog the flora and fauna of American but William and John Bartram were a few of them. They lived in the 1700's in President Jefferson's time, who also was a naturalist himself.

This PDF document is more scientific than historical and has some very nice info on this little gourd. Now one thing I find odd is that this plant could likely be saved quite easily if people could plant the seeds in their own backyards. Just like heirloom vegetables we might be one of the few that could keep it going. They have successfuly raised it at Bok Tower Gardens which is the only place it grows in captivity. Gourds are easy to raise when they aren't being ripped out of the ground so there really is not reason this species couldn't be mass bred, seeds saved and re-introduced in to parks where they would be protected.

Cross Posted to cucurbitaceae


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 6th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
That's cool. I wonder where I could get some seeds....
Sep. 6th, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
I think you'd have to find them as I only know of Bok Tower as being the only place that has cultivated them.
Sep. 6th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
But if it's protected, wouldn't I get in trouble for taking one for the seeds? Sounds like a catch-22!
Sep. 6th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah most likely. It's too bad but that's kind of the point I'm making. If they let us cultivate it and save the seeds the plant would have a better chance of survival and not disappearing.
Sep. 6th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
Guess I could ask Bok Tower about getting some...
Sep. 6th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
I don't think they would but it doesn't hurt to ask. Next time I go I'll do the same thing. I hope they have these on display because I'd like to get some pictures. This picture is really the only one I've seen online so far. I bet they have such cute fruits.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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