The Pumpkin family is perhaps one of the most numerous in the entire flora of our planet. Many of the plants included in it have long been grown in all countries of the world, including Russia. These are species such as cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, zucchini. Others are just beginning to gain popularity among Russian summer residents, gardeners, gardeners: melotria, momordica, nod. Another interesting culture from this family, which is still not well known in our country, is tladianta.
In its natural environment, culture grows in Asia, in the Far East. It was brought to European countries in the middle of the 19th century. The genus Thladiantha includes about 25 species. The most widespread in Europe is Thladiantha dubia - dubious tladianth. Its thickets can be found even in the Ussuri taiga, in its southern part. Today, not as a vegetable, but as an ornamental culture, it can be found in Canada and other countries of America.
This is a perennial liana that is very rarely grown in Russia, although it is able to survive even at low temperatures. On the roots and stems located low above the ground, tubers are formed, the diameter of which is 2-8 cm.
The long main stem of the tladianta stretches up to 5 m. It is abundantly covered with lateral shoots and foliage. Thanks to the peculiar tendrils formed on the stems, the liana easily climbs onto a support, tall trees, walls of houses and fences, so it can be used to create a green hedge, design arbors. In addition, all parts of the plant: stems, fruits, leaves have a fairly abundant felt pubescence of thin soft hairs.
If the stems do not have the opportunity to grab onto any ledge and pull themselves up, then the vine will spread over the surface of the soil with a solid green carpet, without forming buds or forming fruits.
The heart-shaped, wide, slightly pointed leaves at the top reach a length of 6-12 cm, while their width is 5-10 cm. The edge of the light green (emerald) leaf plate has small teeth. The leaves are attached to the stem with petioles. The entire green mass, consisting of leaves of different ages, creates an abundant shade, which explains the use of culture in vertical landscape gardening.
This exotic plant belongs to dioecious cultures: female and male flowers are located on different plant specimens. By the way, the botanical name of the liana is formed from the roots of two Greek words. The first part is from the word thladias, which is translated into Russian as "eunuch", and the second - anthos - means "flower". Greenish-yellow flowers are bell-shaped and can be arranged singly or collected in inflorescences in the form of brushes, bunches, umbrellas.
The flowering period is very long from July to autumn, September-October, depending on weather conditions. The male flowers, the stamens, open first. Their length is 2.5-3 cm. They have 5 sepals, divided to the base of the petals and stamens of different lengths. The female (pistillate) flowers are paler in color, they also have 5 stamens (staminodes), but they are modified, underdeveloped and do not produce pollen. An oblong ovary forms at the base of the flower.
In the natural environment, the pollinator for Thladiantha dubia is a small bee Ctenoplectra, which feeds only on the pollen of the thladiantha, the flowers of this vine do not attract other insects. At night, she hides in male flowers, and during the day she “engages” in the pollination procedure.
Beginning in mid-summer, fruits begin to ripen on plants. They have an elongated shape, resembling the original cucumber, 8 cm long and about 2 cm in diameter. Dense and juicy "cucumbers" are filled with a large number of horizontally arranged seeds, about 100 pcs. In areas where they do not have a natural pollinator, the fruits grow seedless. In young fruits, the color is characteristic of the Pumpkin family - green. But as they mature, they acquire a red, orange, plain or striped color. For this plant received a second name - red cucumber. Fully ripened fruits have a dense peel and sweet-tasting, very tender flesh.
Inside the fruit in the pulp are seeds. In their appearance, they resemble watermelon seeds. They are flattened laterally, have an obovate shape, a hard, smooth surface, and are black in color.
With the onset of autumn, the aerial part dies off. But the tubers in the ground tolerate frost well. In the spring, with the onset of heat, when the soil warms up sufficiently, from the vegetative buds located on them, the growth of young shoots begins. Thanks to this, once planted tladianta can quickly fill the entire plot and the gardener, who wanted to impress his neighbors with an unusual culture he has grown, has to think about how to get rid of it now. Moreover, young plants easily tolerate temperature drops down to -3ºС. so that the liana does not capture the entire territory, before the first planting, it is recommended to limit the area chosen for its cultivation, for example, by digging pieces of slate, roofing material, sheets of metal along the perimeter of its borders.
In official medicine, the red cucumber has not been used, so the composition of its roots, tubers, fruits, leaves, stems has been studied very poorly. At the same time, according to available data, it contains substances useful for humans, such as:
- vitamins of groups A, B, C, E;
- alimentary fiber;
- minerals - iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, phosphorus.
Thanks to this, healers and folk healers actively use tladiant in their practice. All parts of the plant are involved. Drugs, infusions and tinctures prepared from them are used as remedies with healing properties:
- reducing pressure;
- strengthening immunity;
- preventing headaches;
- helping with radiculitis, osteochondrosis, joint pain (compresses from tubers);
- contributing to the treatment of gastrointestinal problems.
Before you start treating diseases yourself, consult your doctor. In any case, all parts of the dubious tladianta are non-toxic and completely safe for health. A contraindication can only be individual intolerance, which can manifest itself in the form of an allergic reaction, and diabetes mellitus, since the fruits contain a large amount of sugar.
Thladiantha dubia is an unusual exotic outdoor plant. It grows well in lighted areas, but also tolerates slight shading, partial shade. She needs slightly acidic or neutral soil. Strongly acidic soil must be pre-treated with liming. At a level close to the surface, the occurrence of groundwater should take care of the organization of the drainage system. Otherwise, excessive soil moisture can lead to "wetting" with subsequent death of the plant. Many lovers use an unpretentious culture in care as an indoor flower or for growing on a balcony, because it gives a plentiful shade, and it can winter on a loggia even without additional warming.
Since the plant belongs to the dioecious class, when ordering on the website or buying in a store, take several packs of seeds at once, when propagating by tubers, take them from different plants. To obtain their own seeds, some gardeners pollinate the flowers by hand.
You can get planting material by growing seedlings from seeds or vegetatively. Since ordinary bees and other insects are reluctant to work on pollination, it is unlikely that you will be able to get seeds on your own or borrow them from your neighbors. Seeds and tubers are sold in specialized stores, choose only products from a well-established manufacturer, for example, Gavrish seeds.
The procedure for growing seedlings of tladianta is similar to the agricultural technique for cultivating cucumbers, zucchini, and other pumpkin crops familiar to us. In order for seedlings to appear faster, the seeds are pre-soaked in warm water or on a damp bed of moss. After they peck, they can be placed for 12 hours in a solution of trace elements obtained by dissolving 1-2 tablets of fertilizers in 10 liters of warm water. Then they are dried to flowability.
As containers for germination, you can use peat pots or take plastic cups, having previously made a small hole in the bottom to drain excess water. Prepared containers are filled with ready-made soil mixture or the substrate is prepared independently: mullein (4: 1) or humus (1: 1) is added to peat.
The seeds are deepened by 2 cm, the soil surface is moistened, covered with a film on top and placed in a warm, dark place. After the appearance of sprouts, they are transferred to the windowsill. You can plant seedlings in the soil after 4-5 leaves develop on the shoots.
You can grow young plants from tubers. This method does not require any additional efforts and techniques from the gardener. It is enough to prepare the bed and plant the tubers to a depth of 8-10 cm at the same time and in the same way as potatoes are planted. The nutrients contained in them are enough to ensure the rapid emergence of shoots and their active growth.
Red cucumber is completely unpretentious. In the central regions of our country, it has no insect pests, and it is very rarely affected by diseases. The only thing that is required from the gardener is to periodically water the plantings and loosen the soil, removing weeds. For more intensive growth and abundant flowering, the tladianta is fed with organic and mineral fertilizers. Before flowering, to stimulate tuber and fruit formation, as well as to increase resistance, phosphorus-containing preparations are applied under the roots. During the fruiting period, compost, manure can be used as top dressing. Organics contributes to the saturation of the soil with microorganisms, which supply easily soluble compounds to the roots, and therefore actively absorbed by them, which leads to an increase in yield.
In the fall, when the aerial part dies, it is carefully cut with a pruner or garden shears and burned. Tubers successfully overwinter in the ground without additional shelter. They can be dug up for propagation or to prevent the site from thickening. Store seed, as well as potatoes in the basement.
The period of flowering, fruiting, removal of red cucumbers stretches for almost the whole summer. With the seed method of growing tladianta during the first year of life, the plant actively grows tubers, so the yield will be low, few flowers and cucumbers are formed. In the spring, new plants will grow from the overwintered tubers, which will bring a large number of fruits that can be harvested in the form of greens or waiting for full ripening.
Gardeners, gardeners, and other people familiar with dubious tladianta have a double opinion about this exotic culture. On the one hand, it is unpretentious and has a very decorative appearance, on the other hand, it is an “aggressor”, a weed that can quickly capture the entire territory of your garden and move to your neighbors. Some are sure that its fruits are useless and tasteless, while others are happy to use them to diversify their diet.
In landscape design
Unlike many other liana-like exotic plants, such as melotria, momordica, lagenaria, luffa), tladianta is a perennial. Despite its "aggressiveness", it is actively used by gardeners, landscape designers of the Far East, the eastern regions of China. This is a great option for creating green compositions, sculptures for a garden, hedges, for masking unpresentable household buildings, a compost heap, a blank wall of a house, a barn.
In the spring, the shoots grow quickly, climbing up the support provided to them: the wall of the gazebo, the trellis, the withered tree. The main thing is to monitor the behavior of the red cucumber, in time to stop his attempts to braid young trees, shrubs, and other useful plants that accidentally met on the way.
Tladianta thickets have a decorative appearance throughout the growing season. Numerous yellow bell-shaped flowers are formed on plants, single or collected in original inflorescences. They are clearly visible, as they do not hide among the greenery of the foliage. Bright red pubescent ripened fruits also serve as decoration.
In summer, the fruits, both green (unripe) and ripe, can be used fresh for food. It tastes like a cross between pineapple, kiwi, mango. And it can be used as an additive in soups, snacks, vegetable and meat dishes. Fully ripe red cucumbers go well with various fruits, so they can be used as one of the ingredients in vegetable salad. They are also good in combination with cottage cheese in the form of a casserole. For consumption in winter, the fruits of tladianta are marinated, jam, marmalade, candied fruits are prepared from them.