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Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 17:18-20 (article 5) 1994

The Xishuangbanna Gourd (Cucumis sativus var. xishuangbannesis Qi et Yuan), a Traditionally Cultivated Plant 9of the Hanai people, Xishuangbanna, Yunan, China

Chen Jinfeng, Zhang Shenglin and Zhang Xinguo

Southwest Agricultural University, Chongquig, 630716, P.R. China

Introduction. Xishuangbanna gourd (Cucumis sativus L. var. xishuangbannesis Qi et Yuan) is an special type of cucumber traditionally cultivated by the Hani people on the mountainous level at about 1000 meters above sea level. The variety has not been introduced for cultivation in other regions. With many national ethnic minorities and rich in resources, the Xishuangbanna autonomous region lies in the southern area of Yunan Province, China. This region is located 2110'-2240; N and 9955' - 1015' E, and has an area of 19,220 square kilometers, with a tropical monsoon climate (Pei Sheen, 1982). Hani is an ethnic minority region with a population of about 10,000 who live in the mountains about 800 meters above sea level. They have their own languages but do not communicate by written word. Traditionally, they have their own ways of cultivating and utilizing the Xishuangbanna gourd. It is commonly called 'Shihuo' nd has many regional types (e.g. Cattle shihuo, Ivory shihuo, and Round shihuo). The Hani people intercrop gourd plants with dry rice, because they think the two crops are interdependent.

We made two on-site investigations in the Xishuangbanna region in October 1990 and September-October 1991. We observed that plants of Xishuangbanna gourd grow vigorously and produce fruit of special shapes. We also found that the plants were resistant to blight, and therefore this gourd has potential for use as ethnic plant germplasm.

Characteristics. Intercropped with dry rice, Xishuangbanna gourd is sown in April and harvested from July to November. The plants of Xishuangbanna gourd grow more vigorously than the common cultivated cucumber (C. sativus), having primary stems 6-7 meters long and 20-40 lateral branches. The plants can reach a whole vine length of around 8 meters with 900 nodes, and bear about 10 mature fruits with a yield of 10-20 kilograms per plant. Plants are relatively resistant to common diseases.

The first pistillate occurs beyond the fifteenth node. Often two female flowers or a mixture of one female and one male flower occur at a node. The frequency of female flowers is 10-30% less than the common cultivated cucumber. The tops of mature fruits of some Xishuangbanna types have a distinct projecting navel, which is characteristic of hermaphrodite flowers (Fig. 1).

Xishuangbanna gourd consists as a population with a variety of fruit shapes and rind colors. The mature fruits, each weighing an average 2-3 kilograms, have the smooth rinds without thorns. The fruit shapes of the Xishuangbanna gourd can be divided into three types: 1) long and narrow, 2) column-like, and 3) round. The long and column-like types are distributed in Jinhong County, Monghai County and Mongna County while the round type is grown mainly in Jinhong County. The length:diameter ratio of all three types is 3:1. There are three rind colors: orange, light yellow and white. Some orange column types have distinct net veins on the rind (Fig. 2). In contrast, some young round types have veins similar to those of muskmelon. While fruits of Xishuangbanna gourd normally have 3 to 5 carpels (Fig. 3), round fruits always have 5 carpels. The placenta of immature fruits has a slight yellow color. This coloration can change to orange in some types, while the nearby pulp remains yellow in color.

Mode of Use. The fruits of Xishuangbanna gourd can be used as follows: 1) sliced and spiced, and then eaten raw as vegetable; 2) as fruits to quench thirst, especially when working away from home; and 3) as the appetizers with wines when eaten raw during or after drinking.

Discussion. As mentioned above, the Hanai people have virtually no farming system and no common method of growing vegetables. However, they like the Xishuangbanna gourd very much, possibly because it requires no special care to produce a relatively high yield. Furthermore, this variety has a long harvest span and good postharvest storage characteristics. Because of its delicious taste, Dai and Han have recently begun consuming Xishuangbanna gourd in large quantity.

Chinese cucumbers were divided into two types (horticultural groups): North China and South China types (Cui, 1991). But thus far, few studies have been conducted on the Southwest type. The population of Xishuangbanna gourd has seven pairs of chromosomes and can cross-fertilize with C. sativus to produce fertile F1 progeny (Qi and Yuan, 1983; Yang, 1991). Nevertheless, Xishuangbanna gourd is distinctly different from C. sativus in several morphological characteristics, but similar to C. melo in fruit shape and color, fruit navel display, carpel and rind structure. It appears that Xishuangbanna gourd is an intermediate type between C. sativus and C. melo in morphological characteristics and therefore may be of great value for investigating the origin and evolution of Cucumis.

Although many types of wild diploid species of cucumber have been found in South and EASt Africa (Meeuse, 1962; Jeffrey, 1967), Cucumis originated in India or China (Harlan, 1975). Recently, cytogenetic, physiological and biochemical studies showed that C. melo is more primitive than C. sativus (Singh, 1990). During our investigation, we found a wild cucumber type (C. hystric Chakr.) called 'Mice gourd' (Fig. 4) to which little attention has been paid. It has 12 pairs of chromosomes and taste similar to C. sativus. Since Xishuangbanna gourd exists in the area of Cucumis origin and diversity (Whitaker, 1962), the further investigation of Xishuangbanna gourd may provide some keys to the origin and evolution of this genus.

Figures 1-4

Figure 1. Fruit navels of some types of Xishuangbanna gourd.

Figure 2. Netted veins on the fruit of orange column-shaped Xishuangbanna gourd types.

Figure 3. Carpels of some types of Xishuangbanna gourd.

Figure 4. Fruits of C. hystris Chakr.

Literature Cited

  1. Cui, H.W. 1991. cucumber cultivar improvement in the People's Republic of China. Cucurbit Genetics Coop. Rpt. 14:5-7.
  2. Harlan, J.R. 1975. Crops and Man. Amer. Soc. Agron./Crop Sci. Soc. Amer., Madison, WI.
  3. Jeffrey, C. 1967. Cucurbitaceae. In: E. Milne-Redlead and R.M. Pohill (eds), Flora of Tropical Africa. Crown Agents, London.
  4. Meeuse, A.D.J. 1962. The Cucurbitaceae of Southern Africa. Bothalia 8:1-111.
  5. Pei Shengji 1982. Preliminary studies on ethnobotany of Xishuangbanna 20:1-5.
  6. Qi, C.Z. 1983. A new type of cucumber, Cucumis sativus L. var. xishuangbannesis Qi et Yuan. Acta Horticulturae Sinica 10:259-263.
  7. Singh, A.K. 1990. P. 11-28. In: Cytogenetics and Evolution in the Cucurbitaceae: Biology and Utilization of the Cucurbitaceae. Cornell Univ. Press. 11-28.
  8. Whitaker, T.W.. 1962. Cucurbits: Botany, Cultivation and Utilization. Interscience Publishers, New York.
  9. Yang, S.L. 1991. Preliminary studies on Cucumis sativus L. var. xishuangbannesis. Cucurbit Genetics Coop. Rpt. 14:29-31.

Sponsored by the Postdoctoral Funds of Sichuan Provincal Education Committee.

Acknowledgement. We would like to express our special thanks to Dr. Terrance Walters, Prof. Li Hen, Dr. Zhang He, Dr. Gan Zhizhi, Mr. Hong Guosheng, Prof. Zhou Liduan, and some Hani friends, Mr. Luo Wu, Ms. Mi Sao, and Ms. Cuo Er.

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Page citation: Wehner, T.C., Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative;
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send questions to T.C. Wehner; last revised on 11 December, 2009