Have you ever wondered what a watermelon plant looks like? It can be challenging to tell the difference between various cucurbits, such as watermelons, cucumbers, melons, squash, and gourds, when they are just seedlings. However, as these plants grow, distinct characteristics emerge that make it easier to identify each one.
Whether you’re a new gardener who forgot to label your seeds or you have a mysterious plant sprouting in your yard, this guide will help you determine what a watermelon plant looks like and how to identify it among other cucurbits.
The Telltale Signs
Step 1: Examining the Leaves
When cucurbits are in the seedling stage and only have a few leaves, watermelons and cucumbers can look almost identical. However, as the true leaves begin to emerge, the differences become more apparent.
Watermelon plants have lobed leaves, which are characteristic of all watermelon varieties. These deep lobes resemble the shape of an oak leaf. On the other hand, cucumber leaves are more triangular in shape and have slightly serrated edges. They can be compared to the leaves of a maple tree. Cantaloupe melon leaves fall somewhere in between, being more rounded than cucumber leaves but not as deeply lobed as watermelon leaves.
Step 2: Observe the Vining Behavior
Another distinguishing feature between watermelon plants and cucumber plants is their vining behavior. Both plants send out long vines from the main stem, but there are differences in how they grow.
Watermelon plants have a less dense leaf cover, with the developing fruits visible beneath the foliage. In contrast, cucumber plants form a dense cover that shades both the fruits and the soil.
Step 3: Analyzing the Fruits
If you’re still unsure about whether you have a watermelon plant or a cucumber plant, examining the fruits will provide a definitive answer. Both plants have male and female flowers, with the fruits developing under the female flowers.
Watermelon fruits resemble tiny watermelons, with a round or oval shape and distinctive striping. Cucumber fruits, on the other hand, resemble small cucumbers, with an oblong shape and spines. While cantaloupe melon fruits may not exhibit the characteristic mottling of mature cantaloupes, they often have a fuzzy appearance when they are still small.
It’s worth noting that cross-pollination can occur between different cucurbits if you grow them in close proximity. This means that if your mystery plant is a self-planted seed or if you have various cucurbits nearby, you might end up with a hybrid plant. However, most cucurbit plants do not cross-pollinate with each other, so if you identify your plant as a watermelon, it is likely to remain a watermelon and not become an unusual cucumber-melon hybrid.
Now that you know the distinctive features of a watermelon plant, you can confidently identify it among other cucurbits. Happy gardening!
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