Echinocystis lobata (Wild Cucumber)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; moist woods, thickets, along streams
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:2 to 10 foot vine
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC 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: 6-petals Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: raceme

[photo of male flowers] Wild Cucumber has both male and female flowers on the same plant. Individual flowers are ½ inch across, with 6 narrow greenish white petals that are covered in short, glandular hairs and often twisted. Male flowers are in a 4 to 8 inch long erect, loose cluster on a naked stem opposite a leaf. A short column of pale yellow-tipped stamens protrudes from the center

[photo of female flower] 1 to a few short-stalked female flowers sit at the base of the male flower cluster. Female flowers are similar to males but with a short, blunt stigma and a bloated, spiny ovary beneath the petals.

Leaves and stem: 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 triangular lobes. The shape is similar to a maple leaf. There are tiny widely spaced teeth all around the edges. Stems are angled, hairless, and have branching tendrils that entwine surrounding vegetation.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a pod-like container up to 2 inches long, covered with spines, and holds 4 seeds. The pod looks a little like a spiny watermelon. The container turns papery brown as seeds ripen and persists through winter. When ripe, the bottom of the pod opens up, dropping the seed to the ground.


Wild Cucumber can create very dense, large patches, seeming to smother everything it covers but rarely doing much actual damage. In late summer it's easy to spot even at 60mph, the numerous flowers giving a light green hue to often darker green supporting vegetation. Wild Cucumber is easily distinguished from Bur Cucumber (Sicyos angulatus), which is hairy, has 5-petaled star-shaped flowers, leaves that are much more shallowly lobed, and a cluster of small fruits, each rather smaller than Wild Cucumber's.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


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:

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

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.

Posted by: Kristi - Oak Grove
on: 2015-05-28 13:01:14

My whole yard is being taken over by this, any tips to get rid of it???

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-05-28 13:28:05

Kristi, it's an annual. The only thing to do is stop it from producing more seed, though it will probably take a number of years for the existing seed bank to be depleted.

Posted by: Suzette - Hennepin County
on: 2015-08-09 18:01:00

Used to be a batch of these over by Hamilton Elementary school in Coon Rapids, Minn. It was in the wild patch to the east of the school. Houses are there now in that spot.

Posted by: linda - Shooting Star Prairie SNA
on: 2015-08-22 09:34:26

Found on a guided tour of this area on 8-8-15.

Posted by: Jeff H - SE Kandiyohi county
on: 2015-09-08 19:38:58

I found what is probably this stuff covering over a small tree on the family farm in SE Kandiyohi county. Also found other plants growing nearby. Never saw it before and no idea what it was until searching images of the spiny pods lead me here. I showed my mother who has lived there for over 50 yrs and she never saw it before either. I'd recently (last year) put some fill dirt in that area but the dirt came from elsewhere on the farm where I had not seen this stuff growing so no idea where it came from. Sort of freaked me out with how fast it grew and all those pods on the vine.

Posted by: Patrick - Badger,MN
on: 2015-09-09 19:54:10

They are also up in Roseau County. I have one climbing the backside of my shed here in Badger,MN.

Posted by: Maria - Blaine, Mn
on: 2015-10-09 17:31:47

Been watching this vine on my walks. They smell great! The prickly cucumber pods are kinda cool! I've gotten some cool pics of the pods opening up and one that's drying. Will wait and pick them. But want to know if you pick the pods before they open, will the seeds germinate next yr? If so how do you know when to open them and how do you store them? I'm open to sharing my pod pics.

Posted by: Sherry - Rock County, near Hardwick
on: 2015-10-16 07:31:08

I just found wild cucumber growing on one of my mom's pine trees. We had never seen it before this year, so not sure where it originated from. Maybe a bird!

Posted by: Lynne - Duluth
on: 2016-08-31 15:04:47

Just found some on the banks of Amity Creek.

Posted by: Joan - Upsala/Morrison county
on: 2016-09-19 17:35:40

Just this afternoon saw this vine for the first time growing on a fence with wild grape vine on my property. Googled it and found you! Thanks!

Posted by: Peach - Plymouth
on: 2016-10-23 19:45:19

Saw this for the first time while walking in Plymouth, MN. Looks exactly like a little watermelon. Googled "green thorny pod MN" and found this site.

Posted by: Tracy F - Ham Lake
on: 2017-07-09 22:05:05

A single seedling of this sprouted on the north edge of my vegetable garden right in front of my chicken coop. I let it grow as my garden is in its second season as a ""Back to Eden" (wood chip mulch) garden. I thought it was a volunteer squash or cucumber so I left the seedling to grow. It doesn't have flowers or fruit yet but I just now identified it by pictures online. I'd like to trellis it up the side of the coop and wonder if I can keep it from invading my garden in subsequent seasons by just removing the pods before they ripen and drop.

Posted by: Shirley O - Watertown, WI
on: 2017-08-14 16:14:16

We have wild cucumber vines covering the tree line by our house. It smells amazing, very similar to linden tree blossoms. I plan to gather some seed pods and relocate the vines to my fence line next spring.

Posted by: rob w - madison lake blue earth county
on: 2017-09-16 15:53:36

I have them growing on the north side of the lake along a lane

Posted by: Elizabeth M. - Near Anoka
on: 2017-09-25 00:15:31

I grew up with these plants in Maplewood, in a suburb near a small dairy farm. They grew in what I called The Bent Tree Forest, next to a slough. The vines were thin and not attractive, but never caused problems for trees or other vegetation. The flowers were delicate and I still well remember the lovely scent - sweet, light and distinct. This was fifty years ago; very nostalgic.

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