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13 Plants Zucchini Can Cross-Pollinate With (and 7 it Can’t)

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If you’re a zucchini grower, you know how easy it is to grow. Zucchini is a type of summer squash that often cross-pollinates with other plants to produce very interesting variations. Not only does the zucchini plant produce fruit all summer long, but it also thrives in nearly any type of soil and environment.

The zucchini variety of squash (Cucurbita pepo) is a vine-like plant related to pumpkins. It has large, edible fruits that are 6 to 8 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. The squash’s main harvest period is from summer to fall, although it will continue to produce fruit into winter.

Zucchini plants are low-growing, spreading slightly, with rounded leaves. Their flowers, which appear above the leaves, are white, bright-green, or dark-green in color. The plants are 30 to 60 inches tall and they can reach up to 3 feet in diameter.

Zucchini plants are warm-season crops that are very fast-growing. They grow about one to two inches per day and take about one to two months to harvest. Interestingly, you can harvest multiple times in a year!

Plants You Can Cross-pollinate With Zucchini

Growing zucchini can be heartbreaking, especially if they rot or fall off instead of growing large. Well, cross-pollination can help prevent such problems. Cross-pollination also brings about interesting variations.

Cross-pollinating can only be successful between different varieties of the same species. Cross-pollinating zucchini will give you more out of your harvest. We compiled a list of some of the plants zucchini can cross-pollinate with.

1. Summer Squashes

yellow and green summer squash in a wooden basket

Zucchini is a summer squash and thus can cross-pollinate with other summer squash varieties that share the scientific name Cucurbita pepo. They can also cross-pollinate with Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita mixta.

Cross-pollination (mixing genetics) alters the original look and shape of the fruits that are produced. This makes it hard to keep a variety pure.

These are the summer squashes that zucchini can cross-pollinate with:

Crookneck Summer Squash

This summer squash has a yellow outer skin that may be smooth or bumpy. It grows in the form of a crescent plant that is also known as yellow squash. Its flesh is yellow and sweet with a curved (crooked) neck, thus the name.

Pattypan Squash

Pattypan is a summer squash that has scalloped edges and is pear-shaped. Its skin can range in color from dark green to white.

Straightneck Squash

This summer squash is usually yellow-colored and thus also known as yellow squash. Cylindrical with firm, white flesh that is sweet and watery.

Zephyr Squash

Zephyr is a summer squash with an appearance similar to that of the zucchini plant’s flowers. It is a hybrid squash that was produced from cross-pollinating acorn squash and delicata squash. It has a faded yellow color at its stem end and a pale lime green color at the blossom end.

2. Winter Squashes

different winter squashes in the market

These are annual fruits that represent several squash species. They are in the genus Cucurbita. The difference between them and summer squash is that they are harvested when the skin has matured to a tough rind, and the seeds are mature.

Here are some varieties of winter squashes that can cross-pollinate with zucchini:

Acorn squash

This winter squash has an acorn-shaped body and pale yellow skin; its flesh is orange or yellow in color.

Butternut

This winter squash has tan skin with a neck that can range from white to orange. It can grow up to 40 pounds and has a sweet, nutty taste.

Spaghetti

Spaghetti is a winter squash that can cross-pollinate with zucchini. However, the effects will not be noticeable in the same year. When you save and plant the cross-pollinated seed, you will see results the following season. This is because the fruits and plants will look completely different from the parents.

3. Gourds and Bottle Gourds

bottle gourds in the garden

Here are some varieties of gourds and bottle gourds you can cross-pollinate zucchini with:

Lagenaria

This species is also known as the bottle gourd. Its fruit can be up to 2 feet in length and 3 inches wide. It has gray or brown, mottled skin.

Luffa

This species is also known as the angled luffa; it has a gourd-shaped body and green skin that turns brown, yellow, or black when mature.

Crown of Thorns (Acanthosicyos horridus)

This gourd resembles a crown and produces prickly, pear-shaped fruits that are green when immature and brownish-green in color when mature. It has many beautiful gourds of different colors like white, yellow, orange, dark green and lime green or bicolored.

Pumpkin

This species (Cucurbita maxima) has a distinct pumpkin shape with red or orange skin and yellow flesh. Its seeds are flat and dark green. It is cylindrical with a bulbous end; its skin is yellow or dark green.

Turban gourd (Cucurbita maxima)

Turban gourd is bright orange and green with striping on the crown with ridges circling its body. It is also related to pumpkins and squash. It is an attractive guard with an acorn shape.

Cucuzza/ Cucuzzi

Cucuzza is an Italian squash with bumpy light green skin and white/yellow flesh. The plant has male flowers. Female flowers are separate on each flower, so you need more than 1 to fruit normally. Like Zucche de Naples, Cucuzzas taste better cooked than raw.

Cucuzza is usually light green, bumpy skinned and pear-shaped with yellow flesh. It has male flowers. Female flowers are separate on each flower. Cucuzza has thick creamy flesh, which is very mild in flavor with no traces of bitterness. Cucuzza is mostly used for cooking, casseroles, and soups.

fresh sliced cantaloupe

Plants That Cannot Cross-Pollinate With Zucchini

Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) can only cross-pollinate with Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita mixta. Plants that are of a different species, such as Cucumis sativus, cannot cross-pollinate with zucchini.

They include:

  • Cucumbers(Cucumis sativus)
  • Melons (Citrullus lanatus)
  • Hubbard squash (Cucurbita maxima)
  • Butternut (Cucurbita moschata)
  • Korean Zucchini (Cucurbita moschata)
  • Cantaloupe (Cucumis melo)
  • Eggplant (Solanum melongena)

How To Keep Zucchini and Other Cucurbits from Cross-Pollinating

If you are a farmer who wants to have purebred plants, then you may be wondering about how best to keep your cucurbits from cross-pollinating.

There are three things you can do to prevent the the cross-pollination of squashes and other members of the cucurbit family:

1.) Distance

First, you need to separate varieties by distance; this is primarily a function of the size and vigor of the crop. It’s important to remember that cucurbits generally need to be separated in order to prevent cross-pollination.

Small-fruited varieties such as ‘Spaghetti’ should be separated by at least one half to one mile. These smaller varieties will not produce enough pollen to affect pollination of adjacent large-fruited varieties, and they do not generally cross with other cucurbits (with the possible exception of zucchini and other summer squashes).

Large-fruited varieties need to be planted further away from smaller ones. The reason is, the larger varieties will produce sufficient pollen to pollinate adjacent fruiting varieties of the same species, if not caged or hand-pollinated.

2.) Time

You need to separate varieties by time. This is primarily a function of the length of the flowering period for each variety.

To test whether or not separation by time will work, simply observe the first flowers that appear on each plant. You should plant varieties with longer flowering periods far from plants with shorter flowering periods.

3.) Net or cage

Netting the entire plant will help keep insects like bees away from your cucurbits and thus prevent cross-pollination.

Hand pollination or caging may be required to produce a successful crop from home-grown seeds.

lady holding 3 fresh zucchinis

In Conclusion

Despite your best efforts of trying to keep a breed pure, you may still find that your crops cross-pollinated. Fortunately, the resulting fruits will still be edible.

However, if you want to keep a pure breed, you may do away with the seeds and plant again at the right season while observing the above instructions.

But if you love cross-pollination, then you have many plants you can cross-breed with to produce tasty and beautiful varieties

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