Wild cucumber, Echinocystis lobata

Life Cycle

Annual

Propagation

Reproducing only by seed.

Stems

Stems vine-like, much-branched, climbing over fences, shrubs and trees to a height of 5m or higher, soft and somewhat fleshy, lengthwise grooved, hairless or sometimes hairy at the nodes.

Leaves

Bright green, long-stalked, usually 5-lobed, resembling the cultivated cucumber, the margin of each lobe smooth or with scattered slender teeth; the lobes deep and the petiole attached in the broadly rounded heart-shaped leaf base, each leaf usually paired with a long, curly, branching tendril on the opposite side of the stem at the same node.

Flowers and Fruit

Flowers with sexes separate, male flowers in long, showy, branching panicles from the axil of each leaf, their petals small, white or greenish-white with prominent yellow anthers but with no pistil or ovary; female flowers short-stalked, one in the axil of the tendril opposite the petiole of the leaf immediately below each cluster of male flowers; female flowers with no stamens but with a small, spherical, weakly spiny ovary below the 6 small, yellow-green petals; fruit fleshy, oblong 2.5-5cm long, weakly prickly, after maturity dying and opening at the blossom end, releasing 4 large, flat, brown to blackish mottled seeds; the dry empty seedpod hanging from the branch during fall and winter as a small spiny mesh bag. Flowers from July to late autumn.

Habitat

Wild cucumber occurs throughout southern Ontario in river bottoms, meadows, edges of woods, fence lines and waste areas, usually in low moist areas, but occasionally in drier sites as well.

Distinguishing Features

It is distinguished by its vine habit, its branched tendrils opposite the bright green leaves, its long clusters of male flowers, its female flowers borne singly and its large, fleshy, weakly spiny 4-seeded fruits, also borne singly.


Figure #1.

A. Branch with cluster of male flowers and 1 female flower. B. Portion of branch with 1 fruit.


Figure #10.

Wild cucumber fruit on plant.


Figure #11.

Fleshy, prickly fruit of wild cucumber.


Figure #12.

Fruit of wild cucumber.


Figure #13.

Flat, "molted" seeds of wild cucumber


Figure #2.

C. Young plant.


Figure #3.

Wild cucumber cotyledon


Figure #4.

Young plant. Photo taken in spring, Southwestern Ontario.


Figure #5.

Vine-like plant, growing over trees.


Figure #6.

Leaves of wild cucumber


Figure #7.

Bright green leaf of wild cucumber


Figure #8.

Branched tendrils of wild cucumber growing around tree branch.


Figure #9.

Vine-like plant