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Cucurbita foetidissima - Kunth.

Common Name Buffalo Gourd, Missouri gourd
Family Cucurbitaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo[65]. There is a report that the root is poisonous[207].
Habitats Dry or sandy soils from Mexico northwards to Missouri and Nebraska[43].
Range South-western N. America.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating  
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Cucurbita foetidissima Buffalo Gourd, Missouri gourd
Cucurbita foetidissima Buffalo Gourd, Missouri gourd

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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Cucurbita foetidissima is a PERENNIAL CLIMBER growing to 6 m (19ft 8in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.


C. perennis.


 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit;  Oil;  Root;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil.

Fruit - cooked[105]. Used as a vegetable, it can also be dried for later use[161, 183]. The young fruit is used, it is bitter and becomes more bitter as it gets older[183]. One report says that the fruit contains up to 23% protein[213], though this would be very unusual in a fruit[K]. The fruit is up to 7cm in diameter[200]. Seed - raw or cooked[46, 61, 86, 92, 94]. The seeds can be ground into a powder and used as a thickening in soups or can be mixed with cereal flours when making cakes and biscuits[183, 257]. Rich in oil with a very pleasant nutty flavour, but very fiddly to use because the seed is small and covered with a fibrous coat[K]. The seed contains 30 - 35% protein and 34% oil[183]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[183]. Root - the source of a starch that is used as a sweetener, stabilizer or for making puddings like tapioca[183]. Some caution is advised, see notes on toxicity[207]. The flowers are said to be edible after preparation[183] but no more details are given.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Laxative;  Poultice;  Vermifuge.

Buffalo gourd was employed medicinally by many native North American tribes who used it particularly in the treatment of skin complaints[257]. It is still employed in modern herbalism as a safe and effective vermicide[238]. The leaves, stems and roots are laxative and poultice[46, 61, 92, 94]. The root is used mainly, but some caution is advised because of a report that it can be poisonous[207]. A poultice of the mashed plant has been used to treat skin sores, ulcers etc[257]. The seeds are vermifuge[7, 88]. The complete seed, together with the husk, is used. This is ground into a fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. It is then necessary to take a purgative afterwards in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body[7]. As a remedy for internal parasites, the seeds are less potent than the root of Dryopteris felix-mas, but they are safer for pregnant women, debilitated patients and children[238].

Other Uses

Darning ball;  Musical;  Oil;  Soap;  Starch.

The fruit is used as a soap substitute[94, 95, 169]. The fruit is cut up and simmered in water to obtain the soap which can be used for removing stains[92]. The fruit can also be dried and stored for later use[92]. It is often used with the root which is also a soap substitute[92]. The soap is said to be effective in removing stains from clothing[257]. The dried fruits have a tough, thick skin. They can be used whole as rattles or can be carved to make ladles, spoons etc[94, 95, 257]. The root is a rich source of starch[177]. (Industrial uses?)

Cultivation details

Management: Standard;  New Crop;  Staple Crop: Protein-oil.

Requires a rich, well-drained moisture retentive soil and a very warm, sunny and sheltered position[1, 200]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[117]. This species is not very hardy in Britain, it is usually grown as an annual in temperate climates[200]. The roots can survive temperatures down to about -25°c[160]. Does not hybridize naturally with other members of this genus though crosses have been made under controlled conditions[86].


Seed - sow early to mid spring in a greenhouse in a rich soil. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. Sow 2 or 3 seeds per pot and thin out to the best plant. Grow them on fast and plant out after the last expected frosts, giving them cloche or frame protection for at least their first few weeks if you are trying them outdoors.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Missouri gourd, Prairie gourd, Calabazilla, Wild Pumpkin, buffalo gourd, chilicote, coyote gourd, fetid gourd, fetid wild pumpkin, stinking gourd, wild gourd, and wild pumpkin.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Native to North America in the central and southwestern United States: Arizona; Arkansas; southern California; Colorado; Kansas; Missouri; southern Nebraska; southern Nevada, New Mexico; Oklahoma; Texas; and southern Utah - and Mexico - Aguascalientes; Chihuahua; Coahuila; Guanajuato; Guerrero; Hidalgo; northern Jalisco; Mexico; Nuevo León; Querétaro; San Luis Potosí; Sonora; Tamaulipas; and Zacatecas. Also found in Australia, Central America and China.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Abobra tenuifoliaCranberry Gourd10
Benincasa hispidaWax Gourd33
Bryonia albaWhite Bryony12
Bryonia dioicaRed Bryony, Cretan bryony12
Citrullus lanatusWater Melon43
Coccinia grandisIvy Gourd22
Cucumis anguriaGherkin, West Indian gherkin31
Cucumis meloMelon, Cantaloupe42
Cucumis melo agrestisWild Melon32
Cucumis melo cantalupensisCantaloupe Melon42
Cucumis melo chitoOrange Melon32
Cucumis melo conomonPickling Melon42
Cucumis melo flexuosusSerpent Melon42
Cucumis melo inodorusHoneydew Melon42
Cucumis melo momordicaSnap Melon42
Cucumis metuliferusHorned Cucumber, African horned cucumber22
Cucumis sativusCucumber, Garden cucumber42
Cucurbita argyrospermaCushaw Pumpkin42
Cucurbita ficifoliaMalabar Gourd, Figleaf gourd32
Cucurbita maximaWinter Squash53
Cucurbita moschataSquash, Crookneck squash53
Cucurbita pepoPumpkin, Field pumpkin, Ozark melon, Texas gourd43
Cyclanthera brachystachyaCuchinito10
Cyclanthera pedataAchocha, Caihua, Caygua, Cayua, Korila, Wild Cucumber34
Ecballium elateriumSquirting Cucumber02
Echinocystis lobataWild Cucumber01
Gynostemma pentaphyllumSweet Tea Vine25
Herpetospermum pedunculosum 12
Lagenaria sicerariaBottle Gourd32


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Readers comment

   Wed Mar 15 2006

How does one make oil from the seeds? PS great article!

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Subject : Cucurbita foetidissima  
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