Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not exactly a pumpkin

with 30 comments

Okay, so buffalo gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima) aren’t pumpkins, but they are in the same botanical genus. Like pumpkins, buffalo gourds develop on the ground, a position where it’s hard to take photographs free from distracting stuff. To get around that difficulty, on October 8th at the Arbor Walk Pond I got down low and used my left hand to lift a buffalo gourd as high as the attached vine would let me, while my right hand wielded the camera. That was good enough to exclude the ground entirely, as I did in most of the pictures I took of this gourd, but I ended up liking the way the darker fringe across the bottom “grounds” this portrait. If you’d like to compare it to one of the “ungrounded” images, and also see a somewhat different portion of what you could fancifully call the planetary surface, click the thumbnail below.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2021 at 3:55 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

30 Responses

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  1. Interesting. I first thought it was some kind of fruit hanging from a tree. 🙂


    October 31, 2021 at 5:58 AM

  2. Great technique, Steve. Can the Buffalo gourd be carved like a pumpkin? Is it edible?


    October 31, 2021 at 6:29 AM

    • I wasn’t as Superman-ish as my description of lifting this gourd with one hand might sound, given that buffalo gourds are at most 3 inches long. I’ve never tried carving one, but my guess is that someone could make a miniature jack-o-lantern. As for edibility, a cooked buffalo gourd might be technically edible but the species name foetidissima comes from the fact that this plant has an unpleasant smell. But wait, hold the presses: I just checked the Wikipedia article about this species and found that “the fresh young gourd can be eaten like squash. The mature fruit is no longer edible, due to bitter compounds.” The article also notes that the seeds can be “eaten after being prepared by roasting or boiling.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2021 at 6:49 AM

      • I appreciate your information, Steve. Without a reference, I imagined the gourd much larger. We love acorn squash and pumpkin seeds, roasted.


        November 6, 2021 at 6:27 AM

  3. I do fine when it comes to “one hand for yourself, one hand for the boat,” but I still haven’t mastered your one hand for the camera trick. It certainly worked well here. The gourd has the feel of an alien craft making a landing on earth. If it were to open, I wonder what sort of creatures would emerge? Wouldn’t it be great if it was filled with tiny buffalos?


    October 31, 2021 at 6:57 AM

    • If that fantasy came true we could repopulate the prairie. Considering how little is left of the prairie in its original state, miniature buffalos would be the appropriate size. As for “alien craft,” that could be a description of photography.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2021 at 7:08 AM

  4. I’ve managed a few one handed insect shots while using the flash and holding a flashlight but nothing like what you did here. I take it buffalo may be a misnomer as it must not be very huge? Yellow and blue again.

    Steve Gingold

    October 31, 2021 at 7:17 AM

    • Another yellow and blue from me to all of you.
      The buffalo in buffalo gourd seems not to be a reference to large size—the gourds are only a few inches in length—but to actual buffalos, though I haven’t been able to confirm that or to find out what the connection was.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2021 at 8:09 AM

  5. I like that dark strip – a reminder of its relationship to the earth. It does amaze me how much weight the stems of pumpkins and gourds can support.

    Ann Mackay

    October 31, 2021 at 7:27 AM

    • Compared to pumpkins and watermelons, buffalo gourd stems need to keep only relatively small gourds attached. The dark strip is indeed a reminder of a connection to the earth, which these gourds normally lie on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2021 at 8:12 AM

  6. I thought you had found one hanging from something.


    October 31, 2021 at 7:48 AM

  7. It does have a planetary look, it’s quite attractive. I’ve never tried making a miniature Jack-O’-Lantern, a project for next year.

    Robert Parker

    October 31, 2021 at 8:05 AM

    • You can be the first kid on your block to have one—and presumably do a post about it as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2021 at 8:29 AM

  8. It took a lot of effort to get this unusual shot with a most unusual perspective, Steve. But it was worth it.

    Peter Klopp

    October 31, 2021 at 9:12 AM

    • Thanks. There have been plenty of times when I pushed myself, and so far I’ve kept on pushing myself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2021 at 12:45 PM

  9. These gourds grow everywhere in our region. You have done a great service to this specimen by raising it up for viewing. They’re not so interesting on the ground!


    October 31, 2021 at 9:32 AM

    • An atypical viewpoint can work wonders. In this case the humble—a word meaning literally ‘on the ground’ (compare humus)—became exalted. If you’ve tried digging up buffalo gourds you may have encountered their hefty roots.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2021 at 12:49 PM

  10. Is it native to Texas? You said somewhere 3 inches, not very large. Without something to give it a scale I first thought it was very large …

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 31, 2021 at 11:21 AM

    • Yes, buffalo gourd is native to Texas, along with quite a few other states: https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=CUFO. I thought about mentioning the size of buffalo gourds in my text but I decided to let the illusion of larger size ride.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2021 at 12:52 PM

      • It’s a weird distribution map of a native range. Thanks for the reference.

        Alessandra Chaves

        October 31, 2021 at 12:56 PM

        • One thing I noticed more than 20 years ago when I got interested in this field is that at one end of the spectrm are native plants with a very small range, while at the other end are species that inhabit large swaths of territory with very different climates. Like people, some adapt to situations a lot better than others.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 31, 2021 at 2:05 PM

          • It is not common at least among animals to find a native distribution that goes over the Rockies mountains, which historically seems to have caused a big vicariance event for most of the US fauna.

            Alessandra Chaves

            October 31, 2021 at 2:39 PM

            • I didn’t know that about animals and the Rocky Mountains. Various plant species have managed to get around or over those mountains and maintained their identity.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 31, 2021 at 2:55 PM

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