Cucurbita digitata

Coyote Melon

Cucurbita digitataVine

The large, underground tuberous root produces several to many herbaceous stems as long as several yards in the summer. The stems usually lie flat on the open ground, but will occasionally climb into surrounding vegetation. The leaves are palmately-divided with very narrow lobes that are widely spaced on the stems.


Tolerant of high desert temperatures.

Water requirements

Survive on existing rain.


Full or reflected sun.






Stems spread widely over ground. Fleshy pulp contains toxic and extremely bitter chemicals. Coyotes, porcupines, and other animals will eat the fruit. Javelina dig up and eat the roots, which they can sniff out even when there is no vine above ground.


The flowers are bright yellow, about two inches across. They open before dawn and wilt by late morning. Only female flowers produce fruit

Cucurbita digitata fruitFruit or Seeds

The fruit is round, three inches in diameter. It is green with yellowish stripes when young and turns straw-colored when mature.


Can make soap from the chemicals in the pulp. Seeds are nutritious, containing 35%protein and 50% fat. The gourds have many uses.


Can be found from the lowest and driest desert elevations into desert grasslands, from southeastern California to southern New Mexico and into northwestern Sonora, Mexico. A member of the Cucurbitaceae family.


Native, Desert Grassland, Desert, Desert Transitional

Return to Index