Gardening Tips and Highlights Waushara County Master Gardeners

Attack of the 25-foot Wild Cucumber

Driving around the county, I happen to notice a mysterious vine growing and covering trees, shrubs and other plants. This has been an excellent growing season that has caused this native vine to grow to new heights.

 

Wild Cucumber, Echinocystis lobata, is a vine native to much of the United States and Canada, and it can be found in many areas of the world. This vine is usually found in places that have adequate soil moisture, such as being close to ponds, streams, or bottom land. This year, however, generous rains have encouraged them to grow in more locations and get bigger than many people have reported in other years.

Educators are receiving calls from people about this mysterious vine. It runs over shrubs and climbs high into trees. They are noticeable now because they are covered in sprays of airy, white flowers. Wild Cucumber is a member of the cucurbit family with domestic relatives like squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers; however, it does not produce anything edible.

This annual plant appears  a bit later in the growing season and hits its peak after the end of July and into August. The vine is a light green with alternately placed, palmate, light green leaves that have five points on them. The stems are relatively easy to break, but the tendrils by which they cling are extremely tough. It grows by wrapping its tendrils in curls and spirals around whatever it is climbing on and goes vertical for up to 15 to 25 feet. The exuberant display of tiny, white flowers is what usually causes people to stare, but the flowers have no scent.

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