Ontario Weeds: Wild cucumber
Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds,
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Table of Contents
- Other Names
- General Description
- Stems and Roots
- Flowers and Fruit
- Similar Species
- Related Links
Name: Wild cucumber, Echinocystis
lobata (Michx.) T. & G.,
Other Names: concombre grimpant, échinocystis lobé, concombre sauvage
Family: Gourd or Melon Family (Cucurbitaceae)
General Description: Annual, reproducing only by seed.
Wild cucumber. A. Branch with cluster of male flowers and 1 female flower.
B. Portion of branch with 1 fruit.
C. Young plant.
Stems & Roots: Stems vine-like,
much-branched, climbing over fences, shrubs and trees to a height
of 5m (17ft) or higher, soft and somewhat fleshy, lengthwise grooved,
hairless or sometimes hairy at the nodes; leaves bright green, long-stalked,
usually 5-lobed, resembling the cultivated cucumber, the margin
of each lobe smooth or with scattered slender teeth; the lobes deep
and the petiole attached in the broadly rounded heart-shaped leaf
base, each leaf usually paired with a long, curly, branching tendril
on the opposite side of the stem at the same node.
Flowers & Fruit: Flowers with sexes separate, male flowers in long, showy, branching panicles from the axil of each leaf, their petals small, white or greenish-white with prominent yellow anthers but with no pistil or ovary; female flowers short-stalked, one in the axil of the tendril opposite the petiole of the leaf immediately below each cluster of male flowers; female flowers with no stamens but with a small, spherical, weakly spiny ovary below the 6 small, yellow-green petals; fruit fleshy, oblong 2.5-5cm (1-2in.) long, weakly prickly, after maturity dying and opening at the blossom end, releasing 4 large, flat, brown to blackish mottled seeds; the dry empty seedpod hanging from the branch during fall and winter as a small spiny mesh bag. Flowers from July to late autumn.
Habitat: Wild cucumber occurs throughout southern Ontario in river bottoms, meadows, edges of woods, fence lines and waste areas, usually in low moist areas, but occasionally in drier sites as well.
Similar Species: It is distinguished by its vine habit, its branched tendrils opposite the bright green leaves, its long clusters of male flowers, its female flowers borne singly and its large, fleshy, weakly spiny 4-seeded fruits, also borne singly.
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