Calabazilla takes its common name from the spanish word for the squash plant, calabaza. Like our garden squash and other gourds, calabazilla has long trailing vines that branch out widely. The large, bright yellow flowers appear in both sexes on the same plant, with the male flowers being more showy and larger and the female flowers giving way to the gourd that follows. The odorous foliage, flower and gourd are covered in hairs. The leaves are quite large, up to 10 inches long, grayish blue and triangle-shaped. The male flowers are bell-shaped with 5 sepals and are up to 5 inches long. It blooms throughout the summer, from May through September. The gourd is inedible, about 4 inches in diameter, and smooth and green with white stripes.
This sprawling plant (20 foot trailing stems from the main root) is supported underground by a root that may grow to ten feet in length, twelve inches in diameter and weigh more than 160lbs!
You may recall another species of the gourd family featured in this Plant of the Month page a few months back, Wild Cucumber (Marah mmacrocarpus). In addition to the viney appearance, both plants share in common a very large root.
Native people found several uses for this plant, including using the root or pulp for curing skin ailments, the fruit as a soap, and the hull of the gourd for anything from rattles to utensils.