Cucurbita okeechobeensis ssp. okeechobeensis

Common Names:
Okeechobee gourd
(Small) Bailey
Growth Habit:
Vine, Forb/herb
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
S.K. Maddox and Race, Tammera
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Bok Tower Gardens

The conservation of Cucurbita okeechobeensis ssp. okeechobeensis is fully sponsored.
S.K. Maddox and Race, Tammera contributed to this Plant Profile.


Cucurbita okeechobeensis ssp. okeechobeensis (Okeechobee Gourd) is a wetland gourd, growing fairly commonly as a vine in the bottomlands of the St. John's River and the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee. It grew and reproduced in perfect synch with the natural hydrologic cycle of its habitat. Gourd seeds probably germinated during the dry season, when lower water levels exposed rich swampy soils. Over the summer, the heart-shaped leaves and cream-colored flowers covered the pond apple trees, which were natural trellises for wild gourds. The vines continued to climb during the wet season. Protected above the rising water level, the flowers developed into orange-sized gourds, light green with faint stripes. These gourds contained the seeds for future generations. The vines dried, and the gourds fell to the water below. The gourds floated on the receding waters of the winter dry season, until they came to rest on exposed soil. And the cycle started again.

As of 1930, at least 95% of the pond apple forests where this species once commonly occurred had been destroyed for agriculture and water-level regulation. This species is now found only in two disjunct populations, threatened with continued water-level regulation practices and invasion of its habitat by non-native invasive species. (USFWS 1999) While this species of gourd is not edible, it is particularly important to study it and maintain it in the wild, as it is resistant to many of the diseases that affect economically important crops, including the cucumber mosaic virus, powdery mildew, and squash mosaic virus.

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research