Squashes are vining plants, and can include hard squash varieties such as butternut and acorn squashes, as well as softer squash varieties, which are more commonly known as summer squashes. Summer squash varieties include zucchini and yellow squash. Both types of squash have the same plant parts, although they may present themselves differently.
The vine produces small, curled tendrils that help the plant support itself as it grows. These tendrils will wrap around external supports to help keep the squash plant off the vine. The vine is covered in short, soft bristles that protect the vine of the plant from pests and predators. The squashes grow off the vines, which also produce the flowers of the squash plant.
The leaves of the squash plant are flat, with ridges along the central and side veins of the leaves. The leaves are lobed, and vary in shape depending on the type of squash plant and the variety of the squash. The leaves are often large and covered in soft bristles similar to the bristles on the vines of the plant. The bristles provide a natural protective barrier for the leaves, keeping them safe from pests and predators.
The roots of the squash plant grow below ground, and the root structure is comprised of multiple roots, rather than having a primary tap root with only a few roots shooting off it. This type of root structure provides stronger anchorage for the squash plant, as well as offering more opportunity for nutrient and water absorption.
The fruit of the squash plant is the primary portion of the plant that is eaten. The fruit of the squash plant varies in shape and color, depending on the variety and type of squash. The flesh of the squash encases the seeds of the squash plant. The outer skin of the squash plant is sometimes edible, particularly for summer squashes and zucchini. However, in hard squash varieties, the skin usually must be removed from the flesh of the fruit prior to eating.
The seeds of the squash plant vary in texture and hardness depending on the variety and type of squash. All squash seeds are teardrop shaped, and can range from very soft to larger harder seeds, such as those of the pumpkin. The seeds of the squash plant are inside the fruit of the plant. In hard squash varieties, the seeds of the squash can be roasted and eaten.
- Ohio State University; Growing Pumpkins and Squash in the Home Garden; Ted Gastier
- North Carolina State University; Growing Gourds; Jonathan R. Schultheis; 1991
- Oregon State University; Zucchini and Summer Squash; 2004
- Oregon State University; Pumpkin and Winter Squash; 2004
- University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow: Winter Squash
- University of Illinois Extension: Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide: Squash