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Cucumis zeyheri Sond.

Protologue  
 Harv. & Sond., Fl. Cap. 2: 496 (1862).
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Family  
 Cucurbitaceae
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Chromosome number  
 2n = 24, 48
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Synonyms  
 Cucumis prophetarum L. subsp. zeyheri (Sond.) C.Jeffrey (1962).
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Vernacular names  
 Wild cucumber (En).
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Origin and geographic distribution  
 Cucumis zeyheri is restricted to the eastern part of southern Africa: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.
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Uses  
 The non-bitter fruits are eaten raw or pickled. The bitter fruits are used as a (drastic) purgative.
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Properties  
 There is no information on the nutritive value of the fruits, but probably it is comparable to cucumber.
The fruits of Cucumis zeyheri contain cucurbitacins B and D. Cucurbitacins, which are known from many Cucurbitaceae and various other plant species, exhibit cytotoxicity (including antitumour activity), anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities.
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Botany  
 Perennial, monoecious, prostrate or rarely scandent herb, with simple tendrils; roots fibrous, woody; stems up to 2 m long. Leaves alternate, simple; petiole 0.5–4 cm long; blade ovate (rarely ovate-triangular), 2.5–9 cm × 2–6 cm, deeply palmately 3–5-lobed, rarely unlobed, slightly cordate at base, lobes variable but mostly elliptical or narrowly elliptical, each 3–5-lobed. Flowers solitary, unisexual, regular, 5-merous; receptacle 2.5–4.5 mm long; sepals 1–4 mm long; petals 4.5–9 mm long, yellow; male flowers with pedicel 3–12(–22) mm long, stamens 3; female flowers with pedicel 3–12 mm long, ovary inferior, densely softly hairy. Fruit an oblong, ellipsoid or obovoid-ellipsoid berry, 3.5–5 cm × 2.5–3.5 cm, concolorous yellow when ripe, spines slender, up to 1.5 cm long; fruit stalk 2–5 cm long. Seeds elliptical in outline, 5–8.5 mm × 2–4.5 mm × 1.5–2 mm, whitish.
The genus Cucumis includes about 30 species, 4 of which are economically important: cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), melon and snake cucumber (Cucumis melo L.), West Indian gherkin (Cucumis anguria L.) and horned melon (Cucumis metuliferus Naudin). Cucumis zeyheri belongs to the ‘anguria’ group of the subgenus Melo.
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Description  
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Other botanical information  
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Growth and development  
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Ecology  
 Cucumis zeyheri occurs in open woodland, in grassland and as a weed on cultivated ground at 300–1650 m altitude.
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Propagation and planting  
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Management  
 Fruits are collected from wild plants.
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Diseases and pests  
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Harvesting  
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Genetic resources and breeding  
 As Cucumis zeyheri is common, it is not threatened by genetic erosion. There are genebank accessions recorded in the Czech Republic, Spain, France and the United States. Fully fertile hybrids can be obtained from crosses of Cucumis zeyheri with Cucumis anguria, Cucumis africanus L.f. and Cucumis myriocarpus Naudin. Resistance to downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis) and scab (Cladosporium cucumerinum), both economically important pathogens of cucumber, has been found in Cucumis zeyheri.
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Breeding  
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Prospects  
 As a vegetable Cucumis zeyheri will remain locally of some importance. As a source of disease resistance it may make an important contribution to breeding, especially of cucumber.
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Major references  
 • Jeffrey, C., 1978. Cucurbitaceae. In: Launert, E. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 4. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 414–499.
• Meeuse, A.D.J., 1962. The Cucurbitaceae of southern Africa. Bothalia 8(1): 1–112.
• van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
• Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. 2nd Edition. E. and S. Livingstone, London, United Kingdom. 1457 pp.
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Other references  
 • Kirkbride Jr, J.H., 1993. Biosystematic monograph of the genus Cucumis (Cucurbitaceae): botanical identification of cucumbers and melons. Parkway Publishers, Boone, North Carolina, United States. 159 pp.
• Robinson, R.W. & Kowalewski, E., 1978. Interspecific hybridization of Cucumis. Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 1: 40.
• Staub, J.E. & Palmer, M.J., 1987. Resistance to downy mildew [Pseudoperonospora cubensis (Berk. & Curt.) Rostow.] and scab (spot rot) [Cladosporium cucumerinum Ellis & Arthur] in Cucumis spp. Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 10: 21–23.
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Afriref references  
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Author(s)  
 
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors  
 
G.J.H. Grubben
Boeckweijdt Consult, Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate editors  
 
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors  
 
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article  
 Bosch, C.H., 2004. Cucumis zeyheri Sond. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>. Accessed .



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General importance
Geographic coverage Africa
Geographic coverage World
Forage/feed use
Medicinal use



Cucumis zeyheri
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