Garden Party: Body Swap?

Last week I noticed that my lemon cucumbers were not turning out to be lemon cucumbers, at least in the case of one plant. This week, I noticed that some of my squash are also behaving strangely. The problem seems to be confined to one corner of the garden:

A: zucchini (?) plants. B: Cucumber labelled lemon but producing long green cucumbers. C: Runt lemon cucumber from two for one sale. D: Yellow scalloped squash.

A: zucchini (?) plants. B: Cucumber labelled lemon but producing long green cucumbers. C: Runt lemon cucumber from two for one sale, producing nothing yet. D: Yellow scalloped squash.

The zucchini’s behavior is the most bizarre. These are what I expect to find inside a zucchini plant:

Baby zucchini.

Normal baby zucchini.

This is what I found inside one of the plants that I transplanted from the cow pasture:

Not a zucchini.

Not a zucchini.

Again, what I expect to find amid the giant green stalks and leaves of a zucchini plant:

Again: zucchini.

Again: zucchini.

Simple enough, you say: what I found in the cow pasture was not a zucchini and I should not have assumed it was just because we grow a lot of zucchini and the plant looked like a zucchini. But here is what I found inside the Black Beauty straggler that I transplanted from the main zucchini bed:

Really not very like a zucchini.

Really not very like a zucchini.

Aha! But maybe there were some other seeds in that zucchini bed, from a previous growing season. Seeds that are supposed to produce things exactly like that one! This would make sense except that no one in the family recognizes the strange egg-shaped thing growing in these impostor plants. None of us have planted them before… and the beds we are using, well they came from mushroom growers. That is definitely not a mushroom. To confuse matters further, this morning I found that the Black Beauty straggler is actually trying to multi-task:

Observe, in the lower right quadrant, there is clearly a regular zucchini, while in upper left there is that odd round little thing.

In the lower right quadrant, there is clearly a regular zucchini, while in upper left there is that odd round little thing.

Maybe its round baby fruit is really just a fat version of a normal zucchini? Could that be?

Hm. I could be over-reacting. Except...

Hm.

Am I overreacting? Could these all be perfectly normal zucchini?

No. That is NOT a zucchini.

No. That is NOT a zucchini.

So what is going on? Have the cow pasture zucchini and the Black Beauty straggler cross pollinated with the lemon cucumber, which is not a lemon cucumber at all? Or is it? Did it swap shapes with the nearby zucchini?

It looks so frail and innocent. I can't believe it is converting all its neighbors to the round yellow cult.

It looks so frail and innocent. I can’t believe it is converting all its neighbors to the round yellow cult.

Is the new little runt cucumber the real lemon cucumber? If it harbors such power in its shrunken, curled little leaves, why isn’t the original supposed-to-be-a-lemon-cucumber making lemon cucumbers?

On a positive note, the two-for-one runt lemon cucumber plant was looking very poorly for a week or so but has recovered and started producing blooms again. That is a good thing, unless those blooms are secretly altering the DNA of everything around them. When I first started the garden, I specifically moved the lemon cucumber all the way across the garden from the burpless cucumber so that it could be itself and not have to conform to the burpless ideal of fruit. I had no idea that the cucumber might change the zucchini…

But perhaps I am blaming the wrong neighbor. Maybe this is the culprit:

Two yellow squash plants making a very big trough look like an overstuffed flower pot.

Two yellow squash plants making a very big trough look like an overstuffed flower pot.

Those are the yellow summer squash plants, which are supposed to produce flattish yellow fruit with scallops around the edges. That is what I was harvesting a couple of weeks ago. Now the fruit is coming slower and does not look the same:

A: what the yellow squash used to look like before the zucchini got going. B: what most of the yellow squash look like now.

A: what the yellow squash used to look like before the zucchini got going. B: what most of the yellow squash look like now.

The yellow squash plant is now producing distinctly less flat and scalloped fruit than it did at the start of the season. Thankfully, once you chop them all up together and cook them, they taste much the same as before. At least for now they do.

Back at the other end of the garden, my pepper plants are wilting nicely. It is difficult to see them so droopy but I am fighting the urge to water them daily. Wilting is good for them, or so the internet tells me.

Pepper plant working on its wilt and maybe some fruit too.

Pepper plant working on its wilt and maybe some fruit too.

One plant, labelled a Sweet Banana pepper, clearly has started making something like a pepper:

Could it be? Are those really going to be fruit?

Could it be? Is that really going to be edible?

I will not hazard a guess as to what shape or color that green nub will take, no matter what the label says.

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