En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - August 16, 2005

From: Cosby, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Smarty Plants on cross pollination
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I live in Cosby, TN in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I plant native species of wildflowers and shrubs. My question to you is: I planted cucumbers in raised beds next to the woods. When I went out to pick some cucumbers I noticed a small replica of the cucumber plant growing right in with them. This plant has a small 5 petal yellow flower which turns into a small green fruit (?) and grows on a vine that is a rapid grower. The leaves are staggered on each side of the vine (not across from each other). Will this plant cross-pollinate with my cucumbers? Is this plant poisonous? I've been eating my cucumbers and nothing has happened to me yet. I would like to hear from you regarding my questions. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Your plant sounds like Meloncito (Melothria pendula), a member of the Family Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber Family). Other common names are Creeping cucumber or Speckled gourd. More pictures appear in the Missouri Plants database. If you would like to verify that this is your plant, you can send us a digital photo. Visit the Ask the Expert page and follow the instructions under "Plant Identification."

The Poisonous Plants of North Carolina database lists it as mildly toxic--the fruit is listed as a strong laxative. Melothria is very unlikely to cross with your cucumber; intergeneric hybrids are extremely rare. Further, even if it did cross with your cucumber, the fruit of the current generation would not be affected at all and would be completely safe to eat. Only the progeny of the cross would exhibit any characteristics of the male parent plant. So, unless you collect the seeds to replant next year or let the fruits fall for their seeds to germinate next year, you won't have a problem.

A bigger concern could be the possibility of vectoring a cucurbit virus to your garden plants. There is a virus called Melothria Mottle Virus that is hosted by Melothria plants and to which plants in the Cucumis genus (cucumbers) are susceptible. Although not too likely to happen, this virus could potentially affect your garden cucumbers, so it would probably be a good idea to keep the plants from close proximity.
 

More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of artichoke-like plant in Idaho
May 13, 2013 - There is a plant/weed growing in the front yard, my mom says it is a flower I say a weed. It looks a lot like an open artichoke and is the same size. It is green except on the tips where it is deep pu...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification for Redding, CA
August 11, 2012 - I have a volunteer plant that has dull green leaf with tiny white flowers that turn into a small black berry the size of a raisin. Can you identify it? I live in Redding, Ca. They are popping up in th...
view the full question and answer

Unknown blue flower growing in New Boston, TX
May 18, 2013 - A light blue wildflower, similar to a cosmos, appeared in one of my beds this spring. I've never grown this flower and would like to identify it. The flower also has similarities to a passion flower...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
August 14, 2009 - I am trying to identify a plant I saw this past weekend in San Diego, California. It was a low growing shrub planted along the road near a beach. The flowers looked like large star jasmine, leaves wer...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification in Parker County, Texas
June 14, 2011 - Hi. Growing alongside a country road, here in Parker County I photographed what I thought might be cardinal flowers. However, in searching books and on the net, I cannot find any quite like these. ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center