Do Not Try This at Home
Most creeping or vining plants will seek some form of support. And if it's a pumpkin vine, it can apparently latch onto a nearby tree and use it as a host. That's what this heirloom pumpkin plant did when its seeds were planted close to the base of a well-established redwood, and the wayward vine produced some lovely pumpkins as it ascended the base of this large trunk.
Our customer, Manfred S., shared his story and photos:
Dear Garden Harvest Supply Folks,
We live in a cooperative housing complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Have lived here since 1965 and in that time I have planted a lot of shrubs and trees on common property, including a Dawn Redwood just across the sidewalk from our unit. In the fall of 2011 a friend gave me some seeds, which I forgot to label. In the spring I planted them near the tree and they grew into large vines that eventually climbed the tree, twined around it and blossomed. I didn’t know if it was a squash, a gourd or a pumpkin. Three of the blossoms bore fruit and it turned out to be heirloom pumpkins that grew between and above a fall clematis. That fascinated the co-op grounds crew and they kept coming by every week to check on their growth. We finally harvested two of the pumpkins on October 15, 2012. That’s me with the bald spot wearing the brown jacket.
What an anomaly, to see a pumpkin vine growing vertically and producing large fruit on the trunk of a giant tree!
The tree's bark provided a rough surface for the tendrils of the pumpkin vine to easily attach to, and the girth of the trunk gave the pumpkin plant's large leaves plenty of room to spread out, to get lots of air and light, and to look really lush. When the plant bore blossoms and then fruit, they too had lots of room to breathe. It's possible the creeping vine even stole some of the tree's nutrients for its own welfare.
That fluke worked out well for the pumpkins but it's not so great for the giant redwood. Tree trunks, even with thick, mostly dried bark, still need air and light, or they'll suffocate. This particular tree was covered in ivy before the pumpkin grabbed on for a free ride. Even that ivy, if dense, could choke out some of the tree's necessary elements for survival. It's best to keep all tree trunks free and clear of parasitic or freeloading plants.
Although tree bark is a wonderful surface for vines to take hold of, it's not a tree's main purpose to support other growing vegetation. Luckily, pumpkin plants can grow right along bare soil on the ground, as long as they're not left on wet earth for long periodsand they shouldn't be subjected to harsh windy conditions, which is tough on their sensitive leaves. Generally speaking, pumpkins will grow in any fertile soil and will thrive anywhere they have room to spread, since vines can grow 20-30 feet long.
Some pumpkin growers in wetter regions build mounds to plant seeds in, so their plants stay on the drier side during rainy periods. In drier regions, the opposite can hold true, where planting seeds in shallow trenches will catch and retain needed moisture. As long as pumpkins aren't exposed to frost, and they get full sun and pollination by bees, they'll produce large and healthy fruit in most growing conditions.