This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Scandent or prostrate herbs, annual, or often with a large fleshy perennial rhizome, rarely shrubby. Leaves alternate, simple, lobed, or palmately or pedately partite. Tendrils (when present) lateral, solitary, simple or branched. Flowers monoecious or dioecious, white or yellow, rarely blue or red. Petals variable, often confluent with the calyx. Stamens commonly 3; anthers extrorse, often sinuate. Fruit inferior, usually fleshy, often large, very variable in form, sometimes brilliantly coloured; seeds variable, destitute of albumen. The plants belonging to this order are mainly from tropical regions, especially the more ornamental ones. Of the 500 species known, a few are notable for their ornamental fruits, and some, like the Melon and Cucumber, are valuable for food. We have one native species, the Red Bryony, Bryonia didoica. It has annual climbing stems, which are produced from a large tuberous root or rhizome. Its elegantly lobed leaves and red berries are familiar in the south. Cucurbita Pepo furnishes some of the handsomest of the annual ornamental gourds. In the form and colour of the fruit it is one of the most variable plants in cultivation. Amongst the more striking are: aurantiiformis, Orange Grourd, in colour and shape exactly resembling an orange; limonis, Lemon Gourd; maliformis, Apple Gourd; and pyriformis, Pear Gourd; besides innumerable other distinct intermediate and small-fruited varieties. Lagenaria vulgaris includes those popularly known as Trumpet, Hercules' Club, Plate de Corse, Siphon, and Bottle Grourds. Cueumis erinaceus and C. myriocarpus are respectively the Hedgehog Cucumber and Grooseberry Gourd. Trichosanthes colubrina is the Snake Gourd. The names are sufficiently descriptive of most of those above enumerated, especially as many of them are not distinguishable except by their fruits. The native countries of most of the edible species cannot be given with any degree of certainty. Of hardy perennial species we may cite Abbbra viridiflora, a native of Uruguay, with annual stems, finely-cut leaves, and greenish-white stellate flowers succeeded by small bright scarlet berries; and Thladiantha dubia, with cordate hirsute leaves, an abundance of medium sized yellow flowers, and bright red fruits about the size and form of a hen's egg. Both of the foregoing are dioecious.