Dendrosicyos socotrana (2012)

PhotoBy Barbara Gardner (January 2012)

Dendrosicyos socotrana is a caudiciform member of the Cucurbitaceae family. The species is native to the small island of Socotra in Yemen, off the east side of Africa. Isaac Bayley Balfour first described it in 1882.

It is the only species in the Cucurbitaceae to grow in a tree form, hence the popular name “cucumber tree.” It has a bulbous trunk topped by a mop of thin branches bearing prickly, palmately lobed leaves. It can grow up to 10 feet tall.

D. socotrana likes a very well-drained soil containing quite a lot of limestone. It also likes warmth all year long and can be in full sun in summer. It needs a bigger pot and lots of water in summer with more sparing watering in the winter.

D. socotrana is a monoecious caudiciform. In botany, this means having the stamens and pistils in separate flowers on the same plant.

The flowers are yellow, and there are both male and female flowers on each plant. The plants therefore can self-fertilize, but do not reproduce by cuttings. Enlarged ovaries resembling miniature pickles differentiate the female flowers.

D. socotrana leaves are spiny when young. The orange-colored fruit is around 1.6 inches long when ripe with seeds.

The secrets to successful cultivation of Dendrosicyos socotrana — ample watering and fertilizing two or three times a week in a warm greenhouse – can yield remarkable growth. The plants are sensitive to attack by cucurbit beetles, which can picked off.