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FutureStarrWild cucumber ontario
In late summer you may notice trees or shrubs festooned with crowns of white flowers that obviously are not the woody plant blooming. Look closely and you’ll notice the leaves and individual flowers look just like that of cucumber – this is wild cucumber or balsam-apple, Echinocystis lobata. The name Echinocystis comes from the Greek echinos for “hedgehog” and cystis for “bladder”, appropriately describing the spiny fruit.
As a fast-growing, warm season annual, wild cucumber grows from seed each year, germinating after the last frost. The large, oval cotyledons look just like that of a regular cucumber. The smooth, fleshy stems are grooved lengthwise. The large, alternate leaves are palmate with 3-5 pointed lobes. Each is borne on a long petiole. The branching vines can grow up to 25 or 30 feet long, climbing onto other foliage with curling, 3-forked tendrils that arise from the leaf axils. The tendrils coil when they touch anything to attach onto for support.Wild cucumber can be cultivated as an ornamental annual vine and would be great for covering arbors and pergolas, or for rambling horizontally along fences, walls and other low structures. It does best in full sun and rich, moist soil. Seed can be sown directly outdoors as soon as the soil warms or seeds can be started early indoors to be transplanted outside after the last frost. Only a few suppliers offer seed, so you may have to collect your own seed in the fall to grow the following year.
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.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. (Source: www.minnesotawildflowers.info)