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Updated: 06/18/2014 12:14:40AM

Florida’s native squash — the Seminole pumpkin

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Winter squash, the hard-skinned long-keeping squash such as butternut and acorn, are a challenge to grow in Florida. But there is one squash that is even touted as being a Florida native. The Seminole pumpkin was being cultivated by native peoples before the Spanish discovery of Florida. It is identified as one of the five plants essential to natives and early settlers. The creek name ‘chassahowitska’ means hanging pumpkin. Natives grew the plants at the bases of trees and allowed the vines to climb high into the branches.

The cucurbit family, which includes cucumbers, summer and winter squashes and pumpkins, are susceptible to fungal, bacterial and viral diseases, plus insect pests including vine borers and squash bugs. Winter squash is the most difficult because the vines must be kept alive for 120 to 150 days or more to produce fruit. Squash vines frequently succumb to our heat and humidity or our erratic winter freezes before maturing fruit.

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