In 2017 I bought some spaghetti squash seeds and enjoyed a bounteous crop of spaghetti squash. Delicious. I saved some seeds. Last year, I decided to forego the pleasure – they were water hogs, looked ugly come August and took up a lot of space. I gave my seeds to a neighbour who was cultivating a large veg plot. They were successful and he gave us some of the squash. Delicious! I saved some seeds.
I thought I’d try again this year so in they went, up they sprouted and, before you knew it, much of the kitchen garden was nothing but huge squash leaves (poor tomatoes!). I was happy to see female flowers appear, happy to see ants and bees pollinating them with the male flowers also appearing, and then, puzzlement.
What was I growing? The fruit didn’t look like the spaghetti squash I’d grown before, nor like anything else I had grown. Instead, there were things that looked like huge, fat, bright orange zucchini, something that looked like a green pumpkin and then, finally, a few gourds that resembled spaghetti squash. All on vines grown from seeds from the middle of one squash! ARGH!!!
I showed these strange things to a friend – the great gardener and organic farmer Lorraine Schmidt, from Thyme Again Gardens here in The County. She reminded me (we had, after all, gone to university together…) that some squash, even though they appear different, are actually varieties of the same species, Cucurbita pepo, and can, thus, cross pollinate. i.e. pumpkins and spaghetti squash can ‘mate’ and produce …all sorts of things!
And I thought back to my neighbour’s large, wonderful, veg plot. He was also growing pumpkins in the same area. Lorraine told me she separates her C. pepo‘s by several large fields to avoid such cross pollination.
Here are some pictures of this unintended cross pollination experiment:
If you’d like to read more of the technical, sciency stuff about cross pollination, here’s a great article from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. It’s a bit old but, hopefully, not outdated.