Muskmelon vs. Cantaloupe1

in HortScience
Thomas W. WhitakerU. S. Department of Agriculture, La Jolla, California

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The common name for botanical varieties and cultivars of Cucumis melo L. is muskmelon. This term includes those forms with both edible and inedible fruits. In the United States the word “cantaloupe” has been applied to cultivars belonging to C. melo var. reticulatus Naud. The fruits of var. reticulatus are medium in size, the surface is netted, and has shallow vein tracts. The flesh is usually salmon colored, but it may vary from green to deep salmon-orange. The vines usually bear andromonoecious flowers, and the fruit generally separates from the stem when mature (slips). Most cultivars grown for commercial purposes in this country belong to C. melo var. reticulatus. The name “cantaloupe” has become firmly imbedded in American culture to indicate these medium-sized, netted melons found in season on shelves of nearly every grocery store and supermarket in the country. For this reason, little can be done to correct its usage except to point out that “cantaloupe” is a misnomer.

Contributor Notes

Cantaloupe is a word with a questionable past. As a result of a controversy over the title of the previous article by R. M. Davis, Jr., this authoritative statement was requested. (Editor)

Geneticist, Crops Research Division, Agricultural Research Service.

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