Fruits and Vegetables Tour
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Species Hierarchy 
Common name: ZUCCHINI
Scentific name: CUCURBITA PEPO


Species Info:

This lifeform is found south of the Mason Dixon line in North America. This lifeform is frequently domesticated.

Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo), which originated in the southern United States, is frequently grown as a garden vegetable. Linnaeus originally described this species.

Cucurbita genus originated in the New World tropics.  There are about 30 species of climbing or crawling herbs in the genus.  The flowers are orange-yellow or yellow-white.  There are eight species and four subspecies now established in greater North America.  Pumpkins, squash, and gourds are in this genus.  The origin of many of these forms is uncertain as there is much confusion regarding exact taxonomy.  Different sources show different species names for same life forms in this complex.  Per accepted biological convention, the first name applied to a life form is the valid name.

Part of the problem originates from the fact that British and American historical taxonomic literature contains different common names for various forms.

To partially illustrate this  problem, the following was taken from the l889 Chamber's Encyclopedia:

Common Gourd or Pumpkin          Cucurbito pepo
Vegetable Marrow                           Cucurbito ovifera or succada
Great Gourd                                       Cucurbito maxima
Squash                                               Cucurbito melopepo
Warted Gourd                                   Cucurbito verrucosa
Musk Gourd                                      Cucurbito moschata
Orange Gourd                                   Cucurbito aurantia

Gourd Family (Cucurbitaceae) contains about 850 species primarily of the tropics. The members of this family are climbing or sprawling herbaceous vines, typically with tendrils. The petioled leaves are alternate. The correct scientific naming of the many domesticated forms of gourds, squash, and melons is open to dispute. As of 1994, there were about 73 species in 28 genera either native to or established in greater North America, including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, and Greenland. The orange pumpkin associated with Halloween jack-o'-lanterns is one of the most familiar members of this family.

Cucurbitales Order contains one family.

Dicots (Dicotyledoneae Class) are the predominant group of vascular plants on earth. With the exception of the grasses (Monocots) and the Conifers (Gymnosperms), most of the larger plants that one encounters are  Dicots. Dicots are characterized by having a seed with two outer shell coverings. Some of the more primitive Dicots are the typical hardwood trees (oaks, birches, hickories, etc). The more advanced Dicots include many of the Composite Family flowers like the  Dandelion, Aster, Thistles, and Sunflowers. Although many Monocots reach a very high degree of specialization, most botanists feel that the Dicots represent the most advanced group of plants.

Seed plants (Phylum Embryophyta) are generally grouped into one large phylum containing three major classes: the Gymnosperms, the Monocots, and the Dicots. (Some scientists separate the Gymnosperms into a separate phylum and refer to the remaining plants as flowering plants or Angiospermae.)

For North American counts of the number of species in each genus and family, the primary reference has been John T. Kartesz, author of A Synonymized Checklist of the Vascular Flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (1994). The geographical scope of his lists include, as part of greater North America, Hawaii, Alaska, Greenland, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Kartesz lists 21,757 species of vascular plants comprising the ferns, gymnosperms and flowering plants as being found in greater North America (including Alaska, Hawaii, Greenland, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands).

There are estimates within the scientific world that about half of the listed North American seed plants were originally native with the balance being comprised of Eurasian and tropical plants that have become established.

Plant kingdom contains a large variety of different organisms including mosses, ferns, and seed plants. Most plants manufacture their energy from sunlight and water. Identification of many species is difficult in that most individual plants have characteristics that have variables based on soil moisture, soil chemistry, and sunlight.

Because of the difficulty in learning and identifying different plant groups, specialists have emerged that study only a limited group of plants. These specialists revise the taxonomy and give us detailed descriptions and ranges of the various species.  Their results are published in technical journals and written with highly specialized words that apply to a specific group.

On the other hand, there are the nature publishers. These people and companies undertake the challenging task of trying to provide easy to use pictures and descriptions to identify those species.


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