Country Living Series

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mystery plants

Last June when I was getting much of the garden planted, I was using some old rotten hay for mulch when I came across two volunteer seedlings of mysterious origin.

I didn't have the heart to uproot these brave little plants, so I transplanted them into a tire to see what they would grow into.

When I gently removed the seedlings from the rotting hay bale to transplant, I noticed a whole bunch of pumpkin seeds around them, so I confidently expected the seedlings were pumpkins. Logical conclusion, right?

Wrong. Or maybe wrong. The plants grew and thrived, but they didn't sprawl like pumpkins or produce the enormous leaves like pumpkins do. Yet they had pumpkin-like flowers. Weird.

They're also not producing great numbers of fruits. So far this is the only one that's growing. It's elongated and looks rather like a zucchini, doesn't it?

But zucchini grows uber-fast, and this fruit has been slow and steady. Also, zucchinis produce with comical abundance, whereas this is, so far, the only fruit between the two plants. Plus the seeds around the seedlings back in June were decidedly NOT zucchini seeds. So what could these plants be?

I was clueless until Younger Daughter wandered out to the garden yesterday evening just as I was photographing these plants. "They're oilseed pumpkins," she said casually.

Head clunk. Of course. I had grown some experimental oilseed pumpkins a couple years ago but never did anything with them. In fact, I vaguely remember one or two rotting in the barn on top a hay bale, so this made sense. Oilseed pumpkins don't turn fully orange like regular pumpkins, they still have a lot of green on them even when mature.

Yet even my oilseed pumpkins from two years ago sprawled more than these plants are doing; and produced more fruit; and produced rounded fruit, not the elongated thing growing now. So while Younger Daughter is quite likely correct, I'm still puzzled over the mysterious aspects of the plants.

But time will tell. I sincerely hope they ARE oilseed pumpkins, as it would be nice to have a fresh stash of seeds.


  1. Similar thing happened to us last year. I had planted butternut squash, acorn squash, and pie pumpkins in the bed at the side of our house. The next year I noticed some volunteers so I left them. They turned out to be an odd looking yellow squash that we couldn't identify...darling son called them squmpkins.

  2. Maybe it's a cross between a watermelon and a spaghetti squash! lol

  3. Different squash varieties will sometimes cross pollinate with each other and create weird offspring hybrids when you let the seeds come up the next year.

    "Squmpkins" - hahaha, that is so cute.

    1. Yep, I'm willing to bet that these pumpkin seeds are crossed with something else. We had that happen with white squash and spaghetti squash. Came out with some weird looking fruit the next year. If you're growing different varieties close to each other it can happen.

      The cross-breeding could also explain why they're not producing much. I'd give 'em a try for dinner, but I wouldn't keep the seeds.

  4. I get those types of volunteers all the time, especially in the squash/pumpkin varieties and I never use hybrid seeds so they shouldn't be plants reverting back or something. I figure they are cross pollinated by my bees and taking various traits from two or more different varieties that make them revert back naturally as their own sort of hybrid.

  5. Patrice, I have planted squash and pumpkins too close on occasion. They cross pollinate and produce squashkins - not a true squash and not a true pumpkin - still good to eat though.

  6. We call those Frankensquashes. We had the same thing happen from volunteers. Only ours were Yellow and hard. The chickens loved them though,

  7. I believe it's the wrong shape leaf for a pumpkin, try watermelon for sure...

  8. watermelon by leaf shape. what do watermelons cross with?

  9. Looks exactly like the watermelons we planted this year - leaves are the same, fruit looks the same, grows slowly, only 1-2 fruit per plant. Will be fun to see what it is once you cut into it once it's ripe. :)

  10. Had 2 surprises this year...a butternut squash and a small cantaloupe! I suspect they burst forth from the compost...that wasn't compost quite yet! Fun stuff!

  11. I think they're "Man Eating" plants from Borneo. Don't get too close.


  12. The leaves look like watermelons as do the striped fruit. Only time will tell!
    We NEVER plant butternut squash in the spring, only in late August to make a late fall fresh vegetable that will last most of the winter. In June my husband noticed a volunteer plant that looked something like a squash and decided to leave it since it was growing in an area that had already been harvested, mulched and fallowed till fall. Two weeks ago we harvested four large, beautiful butternut squash. That isn't an area that we have grown them before and haven't ever composted seed. It is a garden mystery. Those are the sort of thing that make gardening interesting.

  13. The leaves of my Long Pie Pumpkins that I'm growing this year look like that, so definitely pumpkins (or a cross). Does look similar to watermelon type leaves though. I wonder if its because both pumpkins are older "heirloom" types?

    Did you grow any other squash that year that they could have crossed with?

  14. (oh, and I have a HUGE GIANT mystery tomato sprouting from my compost pile, so I can sympathize!)

  15. Maybe a little critter like a squirrel decided to bury a cache and you got the "fruits" of his labor. Kind of like burying peanuts.

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  17. It is kind of fun though isn't it? Last year I got the best cantaloupe from the compost heap!!

  18. Squashes, melons and cukes cross with each other enthusiastically. So much so that, if you want to save seed and get what you started with, it is necessary to make sure they are a quarter mile away from each other. Sometimes I ignore that and let a compost vine grow, and then suffer the disappointment of cucumber flavored cantaloupe. Sadness.