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Ask the Gardener: Pumpkin varieties

Laura Asked

Last winter I fed my horses leftover orange “jack-o-lantern” pumpkins. This summer their manure pile grew these. How can there be so many different colors, shapes, sizes? Are they all pumpkins? Or squash? Or gourds?

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The Gardener’s Answer

Hi, Laura: You and your horses have grown some lovely fall decorations. Pumpkins and squash both belong to the Cucurbit family. This a large and diverse family of plants that tend to cross-pollinate. They produce both male and female blooms on the same plant and depend mainly on honeybees for pollination. The female flowers must be fertilized by the male flowers of the same species. The pumpkins that your horses enjoyed last year did not come true from seed, meaning that the crop produced this year does not look exactly like the parent plant that produced the seeds. They were cross-pollinated by another variety of the same species. If you give the horses these pumpkins the same thing will happen next year. I hope this is helpful.

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