Description: Climbing or trailing annual or perennial herbs, usually bristly; monoecious or dioecious. Tendrils simple.
Leaves simple, lamina toothed or deeply palmately lobed.
Flowers mostly unisexual. Male flowers solitary or in few-flowered clusters; female flowers mostly solitary, sometimes co-axillary with males. Hypanthium bell-shaped. Corolla deeply 5-lobed, yellow. Stamens 3, two 2-locular, one 1-locular, loculi flexuous. Female flowers usually with 3 staminodes. Ovary globose, pubescent; ovules many, horizontal.
Fruit ellipsoid, fleshy, indehiscent, smooth and pubescent, often glabrescent with age or covered with spines or bristles; seeds many, elliptic, compressed.
Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 28 species, mostly tropical & southern Africa, also tropical Asia to Australia. Australia: c. 7 species (1 species possibly native), all States.
A number of species are widely cultivated, especially C. sativus L. (Cucumber) and C. melo L. (rockmelons, cantaloupes and honey dew melons) and to a lesser extent C. metulifera Naudin (Horned Cucumber) and C. anguria L. (West Indian Gherkin).
Text by G. J. Harden
Taxa not yet included in identification key
| ||Key to the species|| |
|1||Leaves more or less unlobed, petiole c. twice as long as the lamina; fruit densely covered with soft bristles c. 6 mm long, bristles more or less completely obscuring the surface of the fruit||Cucumis dipsaceus|
|Leaves mostly deeply 3–5-lobed, petiole less than twice as long as the lamina; fruit either covered with scattered bristles or spines, or bristles dense but not obscuring the surface of the fruit, or spines and bristles absent||2|
|2||Fruit lacking spines or bristles, glabrous or pubescent; leaves shallowly to deeply lobed, rarely almost unlobed||Cucumis melo|
|Fruit covered with rigid spines or bristles; leaves deeply lobed|
Back to 1
|3||Fruit globose, less than 30 mm diam., striped||Cucumis myriocarpus|
|Fruit ellipsoid, more than 30 mm diam.; mostly not striped|
Back to 2
|4||Spines rigid, less than 4 mm long; stalk of fruit more than 30 mm long; leaves with central lobe more or less rounded||Cucumis anguria|
|Bristles soft, more than 4 mm long; stalk of fruit less than 20 mm long; leaves with central lobe usually acute|
Back to 3