April 2, 2020

Stalking the Wild Cucumber

David Fitzpatrick Photo | Echinocystis lobata - Wild cucumber

David Fitzpatrick Photo | Echinocystis lobata – Wild cucumber

The email started off with a this-stuff-has-gone-crazy-all-over-the-yard and a question as to what exactly “this stuff” was. But the person answered himself. Echinocystis lobata is the native wild cucumber. Also known as prickly cucumber and balsam apple, this species in the gourd-melon-cucumber family is found in 41 states, including Maine. Despite its common name, E. lobata is not edible, although it has been used medicinally over time. Some of its uses include treating headaches, as an analgesic and as a love potion, but in general, it is valued as an ornament. With its deeply lobed leaves on long vines and prickly fruit, the plant puts on a show when in bloom, with flowers resembling little starbursts. The genus name, Echinocystis, comes from the Greek, with echinos meaning hedgehog and cystis meaning bladder. Ouch.

Submitted by David Fitzpatrick