Sicyos angulatus (Bur Cucumber)

Plant Info
Also known as: Oneseed Burr Cucumber
Genus:Sicyos
Family:Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:native
Habitat:shade, sun; moist woods, thickets, edges of streams
Bloom season:August - September
Plant height:5 to 20 foot vine
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of male flowers] Bur Cucumber has male and female flowers on the same plant. Individual flowers have 5 greenish-white pointed petals, tinged green at the base, with pale green veins along the length of the petal. Male flowers are about ½ inch across, stalked, in a raceme of 3 to 10 flowers clustered at the end of a long, hairy stem attached opposite a leaf. A column of pale yellow-tipped stamens protrudes from the center.

[photo of female flowers] The female flowers are smaller and more bell-shaped than the male flowers, essentially stalkless, in a round cluster at the tip of a short stalk that elongates up to 3 inches in fruit. The center column is tipped with 3 stigmas.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are about the same length and width, from 4 to 8 inches across, with 3 to 5 shallow lobes. Depending on the depth of the lobes, the shape is somewhat like an angular heart or maple leaf. There are tiny widely spaced teeth all around the edges. The underside of leaves are finely hairy. Stems and stalks are covered in long, spreading hairs. Stems are ribbed and have branching tendrils that entwine around other plants

Fruit: Fruit type: barbed Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] A cluster of up to 10 capsules form from the female flower heads. Each is almond or egg-shaped, ½ to 1 inch long, covered in stiff spines and long white hairs, and contains a single seed. The color is initially green and eventually turns brown.

Notes:

Bur Cucumber can create pretty sizable patches. It and Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) both grow in similar habitats around the same time, but are easily distinguished by the different flower and leaf shapes. Wild Cucumber is also completely hairless, and its fruit is singular and much larger. Beware of Bur Cucumber fruits—the spines easily break off, embed themselves in skin and clothing, and can be rather painful!

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey and Scott counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Comments

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

Posted by: Roger - Detroit Lakes
on: 2011-09-07 15:30:19

I believe we have the Bur Cucumber growing near Detroit Lakes at our cabin.

Posted by: troy - south st. cloud
on: 2014-09-03 00:54:05

My neighbor has this growing up the power lines and it grows up my pine tree so much that I have to cut it off several times during the summer or it would completely cover it.

Posted by: troy - st.cloud
on: 2014-09-04 01:04:13

Growing in yard up a telephone pole.

Posted by: Laura - Saint Paul
on: 2014-09-04 16:13:44

Found what looked like one very long vine pulling down our dogwoods and mixing in with some Virginia Creeper. Started up the neighbor's pine but we got it. Seemed to originate from a single stem and grew rapidly over Labor Day weekend. Hoping we got it all. Ick! First thought our moonvine had gone crazy!

Posted by: anonymous - S Minneapolis
on: 2015-08-18 10:46:20

Parks: Nokomis, Solomon, Taft, Hiawatha, Minnehaha All infested; might as well make this the State Flower.

Posted by: Ian - St. Paul
on: 2015-08-21 11:22:10

I always see loads of bumble bee's visiting the flowers. I think this and wild cucumber are under appreciated

Posted by: Bonnie Harper-Lore - Hennepin Country
on: 2015-10-24 13:33:53

Trying to ID a vine in my suburban back yard and found this series of comments.

Bur cucumber is not a bad plant, nor is it invasive. As the St. Paul comment mentioned, it is used by bumble bees and likely others.

It does not need to be pulled down, these trees, shrubs and vines grow in associations that make our native plant communities what they are. This is not kudzu...beware of kudzu, now found in northern Iowa!

Posted by: mary - lakeville mn
on: 2016-06-16 16:09:15

i finally found out what is taking over south creek banks in Lakeville mn. People are dumping all sorts of landscaping toss aways, and the vine is growing from this dead material. Any suggestions on what to do about it. It comes back evey year and does kill the trees it climbs.

Posted by: Seburn - Sauk Centre, Stearns County
on: 2016-06-17 17:41:38

Not sure why so many people are offended by this beautiful native vine. Personally, I find it incredibly beautiful and is a very beneficial plant for many insects and animals. Sure, it has spines that hurt and which are it's defense but that shouldn't require that it be eradicated. Just be aware and be careful but don't kill it, please!

Posted by: Barb - NORTH DAKOTA
on: 2016-08-18 16:36:59

This started to grow in my morning glories and I have never seen it grow here in our yard ever so I hada horticulturist look at and we discovered it was the bur cucumber and how it ended up in North Dakota is beyond me but the Bees love it and so do the butterflies so I think it must be beneficial to them and I also think it is beautiful I will have to remove some of it but for the most part I will let it grow where it is since it is making my old fashioned porch look awesome as it is growing along the front and crawling up the columns

Posted by: Dan - Milaca
on: 2017-08-04 16:39:11

I have bee hives and was startled to see such frantic activity when the bur cucumber went into bloom. Very fragrant. Like a white blanket when in bloom. Important crop for the bees if you live along a river bottom.

Posted by: Mike - Montevideo - Montevideo/Watson - Chippewa County
on: 2018-08-21 10:08:05

Pervasive and very thick throughout Minnesota River Bottom along the Chippewa County and Lac Qui Parle county lines. Has taken over most everything.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-08-21 10:44:29

2018 has been an exceptional year for the other native cucumber, too. Perhaps they like the extra heat this year.

Posted by: Sarah - Little Falls
on: 2019-08-26 20:10:59

Growing up the side of the deck in the house we recently moved too alongside morning glories, choking them out.

Posted by: Ann - White Bear Lake
on: 2019-09-01 07:31:17

Huge growing season this year, but am leaving alone for bees. Will remove after first killing frost, because it really overtakes an area.

Posted by: Kim S. - NE Minneapolis
on: 2019-09-02 21:02:26

Growing all along my fence alongside Virginia Creeper and Morning Glories. I just moved into my house last year and it was already here. I don't mind it covering the chain link fence, and, as others have said, I noticed that the bees seem to love it. For those reasons, I kept it, but it grows quickly, so I have to cut it back every 1-2 weeks to keep it off my ornamental tree.

Posted by: Randall - St. Paul
on: 2020-07-07 14:41:48

This is a very pollinator friendly vine. It is rambunctious but easily pulled when you get too much. Keep it around and you will notice that it is very popular with pollinators when it blooms.

Posted by: Jaime Headdy - Mitchell, South Dakota
on: 2020-08-05 17:56:00

I have this growing along my chain-link fence and it is the most beautiful thing, don't know how it got there it was there when I moved here but I know I am definitely NOT cutting it down, it makes the backyard look glorious. 😁

Posted by: Kathy - Sauk Rapids
on: 2020-08-19 10:42:49

Are the almond shaped capsules on this plant edible? It doesn't look like they are.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-08-19 15:58:28

Kathy, do not eat them.

Posted by: Roger Haglund - Along the Red River north of Moorhead
on: 2020-09-06 20:01:57

It appears we have a lot of bur cucumber in the low wet areas along the river

Posted by: Tracey - Hopkins
on: 2020-09-27 13:50:50

I think this is what I have growing along with my grapevine. I've lived here 22 years and have never seen this vine before this summer. There haven't been any flowers on it. At least not yet. I don't know where it came from, but it, along with the Asian beetles are killing my grapevine. Any suggestions?

Posted by: deb - Minneapolis
on: 2021-09-05 14:25:50

Bur Cucumber invited itself to my garden this year and it has been fun! Will it reseed next year? Any information on how reseeding might work would be helpful. I'd like to relocate it to a different part of the yard for next season. Thank you.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-09-05 17:10:55

Deb, collect the capsules when they're mature and sprinkle them around wherever you like, but be VERY careful and wear leather gloves when handling them. The needle-like spines on the fruits will go right through regular garden gloves. They are painful - I speak from experience!

Posted by: Jeffrey Henriksen - Brooten
on: 2021-10-19 09:00:19

Bees will survive with out this flowering vine. for property maintenance and wood cutting, get rid of it! Spines don't work there way out of a wound. Thinking of possible negative out comes for wildlife.

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