This is the first in a series of once a month posts discussing some of the cool and unusual things out there on Earth and in science in general. A lot of it will be “big picture” – I’m fascinated by biodiversity and I think there’s a lot of neat things out there that don’t really get the attention that they deserve. But I’ll try to throw in some test tube science once in a while as well. 🙂
Meet Dendrosicyos socotranus, the cucumber tree. This is a monotypic genus; this means that this genus contains only ONE species. If this species were to ever go extinct, the genus would not exist anymore. Dendrosicyos socotranus is also unique in that it is the only member of the Cucumber family to grow in tree form. Think of the cucumbers you might typically encounter in a garden – species are usually herbaceous and low lying. Not so for D. socotranus – A fully grown plant can reach over 6 meters in height!
D. socotranus is found only on the island of Socotra (sometimes spelled Soqotra). It typically prefers drier areas in the lowlands.
Soqotra is part of an island archipelago off the coast of Yemen in the Indian Ocean. Like many isolated island archipelagos (eg. the Hawaiian islands, the Galapagos islands), Soqotra boasts many endemic plants species with unusual forms and habits. The cucumber tree is only one of many!
[Photo by Socotra Project]