Gourd

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A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae, or a name given to the hollow, dried shell of a fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants of the genus Lagenaria. It is in the same family as the pumpkin.[1][2] For details on gourd species, please refer to List of gourds and squashes.

Most commonly, gourds are the product of the species Lagenaria siceraria (the calabash or African bottle gourd), native to Africa, and at a very early date spread throughout the world by human migrations. This species may be the oldest plant domesticated by humans.[citation needed]

Gourds can be used as a number of things, including bowls or bottles. Gourds are also used as resonating chambers on certain musical instruments including the berimbau and many other stringed instruments and drums. Instruments of this type are fairly common to the Caribbean. Gourds are also used as a vessel for sipping yerba mate by means of a bombilla, in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, where it is called "cuia." Birdhouse gourds are commonly used in southern USA for group housing for purple martins, which reputedly help control mosquitoes. "Gourd" can also refer to the live fruit before it is dried, or to the entire plant that produces that fruit.

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Cultivation

Day-blooming gourds are pollinated in the same way as squash, and commercial plantings should have bee hives supplied. Night blooming gourds are pollinated by moths, which are normally present in adequate supply unless they are drawn off by night lights in the area.

Gourds were the earliest plant species domesticated by humans and were originally used by people as containers or vessels before clay or stone pottery, and is sometimes referred to as "nature's pottery". The original and evolutional shape of clay pottery is thought to have been modeled on the shape of certain gourd varieties.

Recent DNA analyses of bottle gourds found at several sites throughout the Americas has resolved a long-standing mystery, as well as adding evidence establishing the early date of domestication of the bottle gourd plant. As the bottle gourd is native to Africa and not the Americas, archeologists previous to the analyses could only speculate that it had probably floated across the Atlantic. But upon examining the DNA, they found that the American samples most closely matched the varieties of the African bottle gourd found in Asia, not Africa. It was thus concluded that the bottle gourd had been deliberately brought by early migrants from Asia to the Americas, at least 10,000 years ago. [3]

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