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Wild cucumber: n. A long edible rootstock of the wild European cabbage that, in temperate countries, is often eaten as a salad vegetable. It is particularly common in Yorkshire, in northern England.Plants that are pokey, viney or spread quickly across the landscape sometimes seem alarming when you discover them in your backyard or woods or when they’re spotted along the highway. Wild cucumber has all these characteristics but is not as ominous as it seems.Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is a vine native across the U.S. and found throughout Wisconsin. It has maple-like star-shaped leaves and has pale greenish-white flowers from July through September. A single plant is self-fertile but can also be pollinated by bees, wasps and flies. It produces a pod-like fruit with spikes resembling a cucumber which is unsafe to eat. Each pod produces four seeds that fall to the ground when the pod is ripe. The pods may persist into the winter and become thin brown shells.
Wild cucumber is not necessarily harmful and is often considered more of a nuisance. It can be a problem in young tree plantings where its climbing vines cover small trees. These flimsy yet fast-growing vines with branching tendrils can prevent saplings from developing one straight leader. The plant’s growth also reduces how many of the tree’s leaves can get sunlight. Humans or pets should not eat the fruits as they can cause an upset stomach. If removal is necessary or desired, it is best to pull vines out by the roots before the fruit has been established for the year. (Source:
Wild Cucumber hides a bit in the landscape until mid-summer when the annual herbaceous vine accelerates its climb from the garden floor. It grows quickly with many 3–forked tendrils clinging to support plants and soon it has spread itself over a large area. The tendrils arise at the leaf nodes, but 90 degrees to the leaf stem. These are touch sensitive and contract to a coil when they contact a support.Also, did you know? There’s another plant that’s also called wild cucumber. The plant’s scientific name is Cucumis anguria. It belongs in the same family as Echinocystis lobata, but it belongs in a different genus. They make look similar with their prickly, rounded fruits, but they’re entirely different plants. Cucumis anguria is more widely known as West Indian cucumber, while Echinocystis lobata is referred to as wild cucumber. (Source: www.eattheplanet.org)