Finally, the answer to the quiz post from last week along with the solution to the mystery!
3 unplanned pumpkins in the background here:
In May, I noticed a weed unlike any of the native plants that was also very familiar. Pokeweed was the native plant that showed the closest resemblance to the seedling in question. Unlike pokeweed however, the leaves were not entire. My typical response to situations like these: Let it go and see what happens!
By June the plants had developed massive leaves, spiny but short stalks and were developing huge orange flowers. It was clearly in the gourd family which as far as I know is not native here nor is any of its ancestors. The seeds had to have come from somewhere with human influence. Cucumber, squash, pumpkin, zucchini?
Then it hit me, the farm from which I sourced the manure had a pick-your-own pumpkin patch last year. I remember them feeding the unsold pumpkins to the pigs and chickens at the end of the season. I’m sure that manure wound up in the big compost pile that is otherwise 95% from cleaning the stalls after horse shows (Hence why all my blog posts state that I am using composted horse manure).
So I contacted the manager of that farm who is a friend of mine. Apparently my observations were not unique as he reported having pumpkins popping up in his crop and hay fields where he had spread his manure. What a hardy plant!
I also eliminated a groundhog I allege to have eaten some of my blueberries. Rabbits normally would be the suspect, but they would have to cross 200 yards of mowed pasture from the nearest brush to get to the garden. With the coyotes howling, foxes barking and hawks/owls performing aerial reconnaissance at day/night respectively, I doubt the rabbits would be motivated to take the risk. These pumpkins may appease any future groundhogs from going after the planned crops!