Don’t bother searching for any traditional cucumbers on a cucumber tree.
- Cucumber trees are a species of tree native exclusively to Yemen’s Socotra, an island off the coast of the Middle East.
- The scientific name of the cucumber tree is Dendrosicyos socotronus, although it also known as Dendrosicyos socotrana, and it is from the family Cucurbitaceae, the family of gourds and curcurbits.
- Isaac Bayley Balfour, a Scottish botanist, was the first to scientifically classify the cucumber tree, doing so in 1882.
- Cucumber trees bloom small tubular flowers that are approximately 3 centimetres (1.2 inches) in diameter, and are a yellow to orange colour.
- The small green leaves of a cucumber tree are edged with spines that reduce in sharpness as they age and the leaves usually reach a diameter of 4 to 8 centimetres (1.6 to 3.1 inches); while the trunk is a mostly white to light grey colour and can reach 1 metre (3.3 feet) or more in diameter.
A Cucumber Tree
Image courtesy of Stefan Geens/Flickr
- Cucumber trees grow to be 3 to 6 metres (10 to 20 feet) in height and have a large trunk compared to the small canopy.
- The cucumber tree is the only species in the Cucurbitaceae family that is a tree, as most others are vines; and the plant can only be propagated by seed.
- Cucumber trees have fleshy fruit that are somewhat ovoid with pointy ends; and they are an orange-red colour, with similar coloured flesh, when ripe.
- The trunk of a cucumber tree stores water, rendering it a relatively drought resistant plant; and the plant has been used as a traditional medicine by native locals, to treat a variety of illnesses.
- Cucumber trees are considered a vulnerable species, threatened primarily for their overuse in supplying feed for livestock during periods of drought.