Cucurbita moschata
Common Name: winter squash
Type: Annual
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Native Range: Central and South America
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Creamy white to orange-yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy, Edible

Culture

This annual vine can easily be grown from seed. It is best grown in fertile, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained loams in full sun. Seeds may be planted outdoors when soil temperatures have risen to at least 65 degrees F., typically about the time of last spring frost date. Plant several seeds together in each planting site (seed hill) and thin later. Seed can also be started indoors about 3 weeks before the last spring frost date, with young plants set out after last frost date. Distance between individual plants varies depending on the variety and growing method. For vines that scramble along the ground, generally space seed hills about 3-5' apart. Fertilize well. Fruits resting on mulch, straw or boards resist rot.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cucurbita moschata is a squash native to Central America and northern South America where it was first domesticated. It is a monoecious, creeping, vine-like annual that trails along the ground or climbs by tendrils. It produces a variety of fruits which vary considerably in size and shape due to large genetic variation within this species. Young leaves, flowers, shoot tips, fruits and seeds are edible. However, the fruits are usually not harvested when young, but are left on the plant to mature for eventual fall harvest as winter squashes. Velvety-hairy, shallowly- to deeply-lobed, broad-ovate to kidney-shaped leaves with toothed margins and cordate bases often have white spots on the veins. Single axillary flowers (male typically long-stalked with three stamens and female typically short-stalked with 3 two-lobed stigmas) are creamy white to orange-yellow and bloom in late spring. Stalks tend to thicken at the points were the fruits appear. Fruits generally have distinctive orange flesh. Developed commercial cultivars in this species generally fall into three different groups: (1) Neck Group (includes Neck or Winter Crookneck, Canada Crookneck, Ponca Butternut, Sucrine Du Berry and Golden Cushaw, (2) Cheese Pumpkin Group (Cutchogue Flat Cheese, Musquee de Provence, Shakertown Field, Virginia Mammoth and Long Island Cheese), and (3) Tropical Group (St. Petersburg, Seminole, Paw Paw, Brazil and White Rind Sugar).

Genus name comes from the Latin name for a gourd.

Specific epithet means musky.

Problems

Potential disease problems include bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt, blossom end rot, downy mildew and powdery mildew. Potential insect pests include aphids, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borers, cutworms, pickleworm and stink bugs. Watch for mites.

Garden Uses

Harvest in fall for culinary use. Young flowers, leaves, shoot tips and seeds are also edible.