En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Plant identification
April 16, 2009 - There is a plant growing on the side of the road near my home. The stalk of it is thistle like with many prickles. The flower on it is white and has 6 petals.
view the full question and answer

Identification of bush/vine with purple berries
August 09, 2014 - I was clearing fence line and came across this plant it looks like a Bush but underneath grows like a vine it has long broad leaves that reminded me of Polk salad but it grows berry clusters the berri...
view the full question and answer

Dill-like plant in veggie garden in California
September 28, 2011 - I have a plant that appeared in my veggie garden. Looks like dill in spring when green, but the leaves smell more like turpentine! Now, 4-5 foot tall, brown, it produces lots of small, oval - not cr...
view the full question and answer

Instructions on posting photos of plant for ID
February 29, 2008 - I need help identifying an adopted tree. How do I post the picture so I can show you? It's a odd one I've never seen.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 25, 2012 - I have a plant that was in a funeral arrangement. The plant has green leaves with darker green spots on it. I do not know what kind of plant it is, nor do I know how much light the plant needs on a ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center