Sp. Pl. 2: 1011. 1753.
Plants monoecious or andromonoecious, roots thin or with thick, woody rootstock. Tendrils sparsely hispid. Leaves: petiole hispid to hispidulous or retrorsely strigose; blade broadly ovate, unlobed or palmately 3–5-lobed, 2–14 (–26) × 2–15 (–26) cm, length 0.8–1.3 times width, base cordate, lobes elliptic or oblong to ovate, margins entire or weakly serrate. Inflorescences: pedicels of pistillate flowers and fruits cylindric; staminate flowers 2–7 (–18) in fascicles or panicles, corolla-tube 0.8–2 mm; pistillate flowers: calyx lobes 1.5–3 (–8) mm, petals 3.5–9 (–20) mm, corolla-tube 1–1.6 (–3) mm, lobes puberulent or glabrous inside. Pepos tan, yellowish, lemon yellow, light yellowish green, dark green, light orange, monocolor or orange or brown striped, ellipsoid to subglobose [globose, cylindric, ovoid, or obovoid], 2–12 (–100) × 2.5–20+ cm, surface netted, warty, scaly, ridged, or smooth, flesh orange to yellowish, green, or whitish. 2n = 24.
Ont., Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Conn., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ky., La., Mass., Mich., Miss., Mo., N.C., N.H., N.Mex., N.Y., Nev., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Utah, Va., W.Va., Asia (India), also nearly worldwide
Subspecies 2 (2 in the flora).
Only two formal infraspecific taxa within Cucumis melo were recognized by J. H. Kirkbride (1993; subsp. melo and subsp. agrestis), who suggested that other variants should be treated with horticultural names, and classification of melons into two subspecies has been generally supported by molecular phylogenies (A. Stepansky et al. 1999; D. S. Decker et al. 2002).
Wide extremes of variation and horticultural selections exist within Cucumis melo, especially as to fruit characters (for example, size, shape, surface features, color, texture, taste, composition). Cucumis melo includes feral, wild, and cultivated forms, including dessert melons as well as non-sweet forms that are consumed raw, pickled, or cooked. This has led to a proliferation of names for the variants and various systems of infraspecific classification have been proposed.
A widely used system proposed by C. V. Naudin (1859), dividing Cucumis melo into a single wild variety (var. agrestis) and six cultivated ones (vars. cantalupensis, conomon, dudaim, flexuosus, inodorus, and momordica), has been modified and simplified (for example, H. M. Munger and R. W. Robinson 1991) as well as extended into a detailed hierarchical system (I. Grebenscikov 1953; see comments by K. Hammer et al. 1986). An overview of infraspecific nomenclature in C. melo was provided by M. Pitrat et al. (2000). This was largely repeated, but adapted to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, by Y. Burger et al. (2010), who proposed five cultivar groups in subsp. agrestis and 11 cultivar groups in subsp. melo; molecular data have not supported their apportionment of the groups among the two subspecies.
Most collections of Cucumis melo from the flora area have not been identified to infraspecific rank and for a more accurate assessment of the distribution of subsp. melo versus subsp. agrestis, all should be reexamined. Presumably, cultivars of each subspecies might be encountered outside of cultivation. As an overview of the diversity of forms and guide to principal names used for melons, a relatively simple taxonomic system is presented here, summarizing the main cultivar groups in each subspecies.