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Wild Cucumber Echinocystis lobata


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Wild Cucumber - fruit
credit: J. C. Lucier/CCSA

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Alternate name: Balsam Apple

Family: Cucurbitaceae, Cucumber view all from this family

Description A climbing vine with an angular stem and small, greenish-white flowers. The flower stalks and 3-forked tendrils arise in leaf axils.
Habit: native annual vine or herb; stems climbing, branched.
Height: stems 15-25 ft (4.5-7.5 m) long.
Leaf: alternate, pinnately divided, 3-7 triangular lobes.
Flower: 6-pointed star, white to pale yellow, 0.3-0.75 in (8-19 mm) wide, with long thin petals; held in terminal spike; male and female flowers on the same plant.
Fruit: oval berry, softly spiny, 1 in (25 mm) long; 4-seeded.

Flower June to October.

Habitat Wet to moist sites: moist woods, thickets, stream banks, river bottoms, fence rows, thickets, roadsides.

Range Native to Saskatchewan to New Brunswick; south to Florida; west to Texas, but very rare in the Southeast; now naturalized westward to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Arizona.

Discussion Also called wild balsam apple, wild mock cucumber, prickly cucumber. Considered weedy or invasive in some areas. As the common name suggests, the fruit is like a cucumber, but inedible.

A somewhat similar vine, the Star Cucumber (Sicyos angulatus), also has maple-like leaves, but 5-petaled flowers and 1-seeded fruits in clusters of 10, each about 1/2" (1.3 cm) long.