Long, green fruit of cucumber plant
Cucumis sativus

Cucumber

Family: Cucurbitaceae
Other common names: kut-ahun (Bunan), tangkuikut-ahun (Bunan), 黄瓜 (Chinese, simplified), 青瓜 (Chinese, traditional), okurka setá (Czech), gurke (German), cetriolo (Italian), 오이 (Korean), eckadamin (Ojibwe), ogórek siewny (Polish), pepino (Portuguese), oгурец обыкновенный (Russian), පිපිඤ්ඤා (Sinhala), pepino cohombro (Spanish), gurka (Swedish), bi-toni-castilla (Zapoteco)
IUCN Red List status: Not Evaluated

Cucumbers are commonly mistaken for vegetables. But in fact they are fruits, specifically berries.

The long, green berries of the cucumber plant are what you usually find in your salads and sandwiches.

They are made up of over 90% water, making them excellent for staying hydrated.

A creeping vine that has roots in the ground and stems that climb using thin, curly tendrils for support. It has large leaves and bright yellow flowers that form long, green fruit with tapered ends.

Read the scientific profile on cucumber

Beauty and cosmetics

Cucumbers are sometimes used in hydrating hair care products due to their high-water concentration.

Food and drink

Cucumber fruits can be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches, or some varieties are pickled. Gherkins and cornichons are young, pickled cucumbers.

  • Cucumber plants rely on bees for pollination. The bees spread pollen from the male parts of flowers on one plant to the female parts of flowers on another plant so that they can produce fruits and seeds that give rise to the next generation of plants.

  • Cucumbers are often bred to produce fruit without pollination and fertilisation (parthenocarpy), which makes the fruit seedless.

  • Cucumbers belong to the same family as squashes, pumpkins, and watermelons.

Map of the world showing where cucumber is native and introduced to
Native: Assam, Bangladesh, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Turkmenistan, West Himalaya
Introduced: Alabama, Albania, Andaman Islands, Arizona, Arkansas, Austria, Bahamas, Bolivia, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Florida, Georgia, Gulf of Guinea Islands, Haiti, Illinois, India, Jamaica, Kansas, Kazakhstan, Kentucky, Korea, Laos, Leeward Islands, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Caledonia, New York, Nicaragua, Nicobar Islands, North Carolina, Ohio, Oman, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Slovakia, South Carolina, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Trinidad-Tobago, Utah, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virginia, Windward Islands, Zaïre
Habitat:

Grows best in warm and humid climates with plenty of sun and well-drained soil.

Kew Gardens

A botanic garden in southwest London with the world’s most diverse living plant collection.

Location

Kitchen Garden

View map of Kew Gardens
Best time to see
Fruits: Aug

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Rosemary, Ellen McHale/RBG Kew Salvia rosmarinus

The aromatic, sun-loving rosemary is a prized Mediterranean herb.

It is unsurprising that rosemary is otherwise known as the 'wonder-herb'; it has an array of uses from adding flavour to cooking and fragrance to perfumes, to decorating sunny garden borders and even improving memory.

Rosemary has been a symbol for memory for hundreds of years. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance".

Rosemary is a fragrant, evergreen shrub with needle-like leaves and two-lipped, purplish-blue and white flowers. New growth is soft and flexible but older stems become woody and form trunks with time.

Read the scientific profile on rosemary

Other plants

The geographical areas mentioned on this page follow the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD) developed by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG).