Echinocystis lobata (Wild Cucumber)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Echinocystis
Family:Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods, thickets, along streams
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:2 to 10 foot vine

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Wild Cucumber has both male and female flowers on the same plant. Individual male flowers are ½ inch across, star shaped with 6 thin greenish white petals, on a 4 to 8 inch long spike. The spikes are at the end of a stem that is attached at the leaf joints. An inconspicuous single female flower sits at the base of the male flower stem.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are nearly as wide as they are long, up to 7 inches across, with 5 angular lobes. The shape is similar to a maple leaf. There are tiny widely spaced teeth all around the edges. Branching tendrils are attached opposite the leaf stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] A single large pod-like container covered with spines forms at the base of the flower stem. Each pod is up to 2 inches long and holds 4 seeds. The pod looks like a spiny watermelon.

Notes:

Wild Cucumber is easily distinguished from Bur Cucumber by the flower shape. Both grow in similar habitats around the same time, but Wild Cucumber blooms a little earlier. Wild Cucumber is hairless, Bur Cucumber has a hairy stem. Bur Cucumber also has a cluster of pods, each rather smaller than Wild Cucumber's.

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More photos

Photos taken at Long Lake Regional Park, New Brighton, and Pioneer Park, Blaine, MN, July-September 2007

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: randy b.
on: 2008-06-18 22:23:59

You should note that the flowers smell great. I know it is kind of weedy but we don't have all that many vines that smell as good as this one does. I'm trying to get some started in my garden.

This grows out at the Airport Dog Park in St. Paul. (along with the horrible Garlic Mustard) Every fall I just inhale the perfume.

Posted by: Ed - Snail Lake Regional Park
on: 2010-01-02 20:44:44

I believe I observed the wild cucumber plant and the decomposing seed pods on the eastern shores of Grass Lake in Snail Lake Regional Park. The seed pods were approximately 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length. You can see a photo of one at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22342128@N05/

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-01-02 21:56:04

Yes, Ed, that is wild cucumber fruit.

Posted by: Deborah - Rochester
on: 2010-07-19 08:29:20

This wild cucumber came up from seed, and is growing in my garden. It started out small, and I was not sure what this beautiful looking "ivy" was -not it is huge and is taking over my garden. Are the cucumbers edible? How do you harvest?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-07-19 15:54:41

I don't know much about edible plants, but according to the Plants for a Future database Echinocystis lobata is not edible.

Posted by: Nancy - Orrock, MN
on: 2010-08-29 12:15:14

We live in land bordering the Sand Dunes State Forest (SW end of Ann Lake). The Wild Cucumber is actually growing from disturbed mulch from a 10-year-old straw pile. We had no idea what it was until I googled "wild vine with spiked fruit."

Posted by: Russell - Ham Lake
on: 2010-09-03 14:40:20

We have them all over the place, even climbing to the top of pine,jack pine trees. They look like Xmas garland.

Posted by: NM - Maplewood
on: 2011-07-29 13:29:43

The fruit is NOT edible, but the tender leaves and tips ARE and they taste great stir-fried. Many Asian people living here eat them and even sell them, as they resemble Ivy Gourd(Tindora)plants in appearance and taste. You can sometimes catch hawkers selling them at the Como Market farmer's market. In fact, I just had some stir-fried with a little garlic and salt last week and it was euphoric.

Posted by: Sarah - Roseville
on: 2011-09-15 05:27:41

Dried vines with fruits still attached make great Halloween decorations. The dried fruits are spiny so use caution around kids and pets. We string them in the garage to dry which makes it easier to clean up all the seeds that drop out of each fruit. The seeds are about the size of a pumpkin seed.

Posted by: Robyn - Litchfield
on: 2012-02-18 17:59:07

I've seen them growing on a friend's farm and around the lake in town.

Posted by: Clara - Onamia
on: 2012-08-22 13:13:53

I travel Hwy. 27 from 169 to Isle and deliver meals on wheels on the side roads. The plants are all over the trees and sides of the roads this year. I don't think I ever remember seeing so many. It may be due to partly to the fact that we had alot of rain this summer???? I know I don't want them in my yard but they are pretty.

Posted by: Lloyd - Lake Mille Lacs, North shore
on: 2012-08-31 08:40:51

Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is growing heavily all around Lake Mille Lacs and especially on the north shore. It is growng right up to and nearly spilling over onto the Hwy 18 on the north shore of Mille Lacs. The plant seems to be growing extra heavily this year.

Posted by: Jim - Brookston, MN.
on: 2012-09-11 15:40:50

They are growing along the St Louis river between Brookston and Floodwood.

Posted by: Bill - Bowstring Lake
on: 2012-09-14 12:10:22

Wild Cucumber growing near the Public Boat Landing on the north end of Bowstring lake (Itasca County)

Posted by: Duane - Osakis
on: 2013-05-31 14:58:10

Growing up on the farm in Osakis MN we had them growing behind the buildings in the trees. We would pick the pods and have snowball-like fights, fun :)

Posted by: John - Hinckley
on: 2013-06-25 15:08:19

I have a similar weed growing near my garden, but the dry fruit is not spiny, but instead resembles a mini luffa. Perhaps it is a cultivated vine gone wild. Can you identify it?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-06-25 17:32:28

John, you can post a photo on our facebook page and we'll see if we can figure it out. If you'd like private assistance with an ID, please consider making a donation to the Minnesota Wildflowers project in return. Your donation is tax deductible!

Posted by: Kelly - Lino Lakes and Blaine
on: 2013-07-20 18:59:25

I believe these are growing on the chain link fences along I35W through the Blaine and Lino Lakes area.

Posted by: Lorrie - Columbus
on: 2013-07-23 07:33:43

Do we really want this vine taking over? It appears to be "consuming" trees, fences and buildings. I am trying to eradicate it before it covers my outbuildings and pasture!

Posted by: Ruth - Freeborn
on: 2013-08-20 17:24:32

This plant really scares me. I pull it off all my evergreens when ever I see it. I call it a strangle weed. It reminds me of kudzu down south.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-08-20 17:30:02

Wild cucumber may look intimidating, but it's actually pretty harmless. Unlike kudzu, it lives in harmony with its neighbors and doesn't kill them off.

Posted by: Paula - French Lake
on: 2013-08-23 11:50:58

Oh man I just figured out what that wonderful smell is out in the woods this time of year. And this is it!

Posted by: Seburn - Glenwood
on: 2013-12-19 14:48:29

These grow all over around Glenwood and Pope County in general. I love the smell of the flowers! They smell like Lilly Of The Valley to me, somewhat. Very sweet but not cloying. I brought a bunch of seed collected near Terrace in Pope County back to my native home of Helena, Montana and have them growing at my parents home there now too. Hope I have not spread a weed but they don't seem to be that weedy and the climate in Montana is much different than that of Minnesota's. Montana certainly does not have the humidity! The vines are beautiful growing at my parents house now and neighbors always ask what they are and comment on the delicious fragrance.

Posted by: J.L. - Brainerd
on: 2014-01-21 15:20:32

This plant grew on the north side of the barn and near the silo on my childhood farm. My grandfather said they had been growing there "forever." Never knew what is was until today. Glad I didn't try to eat one.

Posted by: Melissa - Montrose
on: 2014-07-21 20:05:05

These are growing like crazy on our 5 acres just south of Montrose. Last year we missed one and it killed a 30 foot tall Norway pine. A bird or something must have brought a seed in, now we can't keep up with pulling them out before they go to seed.

Posted by: Leslie - Little Cormorant Lake Becker Co
on: 2014-08-20 12:27:22

My friend asked if I knew what it was. It is all over her woods behind cabin. Has now ground on top of the water on the cattail plants. Has killed the raspberries. She wants to get rid of it...how?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-08-20 13:53:38

Annuals like wild cucumber reproduce by seed, and there is probably a large seed bank to contend with. If you really want to get rid of it, uprooting plants before they flower will prevent new seed production but there's not much you can do about the existing seed bank without killing everything else.

Posted by: Amanda - Brainerd
on: 2014-08-24 17:59:12

I have this growing in my backyard (climbing birch trees) in Brainerd.

Posted by: Pat - Brandon
on: 2014-08-28 14:18:02

Just found out what this vine is called. Our neighbors evergreens get more and more covered every year. We just pulled one off our tree hoping to stop seeds from spreading. I think they are rather ugly covering a whole tree!

Posted by: John - Newfolden, Marshall County
on: 2014-09-30 19:16:34

Found this vine today growing on a bank of the Middle River that flows through town. Several of the spiny seed pods do look exactly like a small watermelons.

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