Wild cucumber, again, drapes over everything

Tue. Aug. 27, 2019

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Wild cucumber, again, drapes over everything!

It’s baaaacckk…..

Wild cucumber photo by Dave Vesledahl

This is the vine many of us are seeing covering fields, trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers along nearly every rural road through Minnesota, Wisconsin and parts east,west and south!   It’s Latin name is Echinocystis lobata. It has a spiny fruit.

spiny fruit

It’s a vining native annual in the cucumber or gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). Wild cucumber is generally overlooked until it has overtaken the  plants it is growing on.  Reputable nurseries sell it. It occurs throughout much of North America but has been significantly worse the last couple of years. This draping vine grows from seed each year and, literally looks like a cucumber plant at first. 

Spring sprout of wild cucumber

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.  While the flowers are kind of pretty and certainly fragrant, this plant can choke out smaller plants.

covering trees by Dave Vesledahl

Wild Cucumber can create very dense, large patches, seeming to smother everything it covers but, according to minnesotawildflowers, it rarely does much actual damage. Yet other information says it can do considerable damage. University of Wisconsin – Madison on Wild Cucumber

Wild Cucumber is NOT defined as invasive but rather AGGRESSIVE! Yes, you could say that! If I were a shrub being shrouded in it, I’d be wanting to get it off me!  Like having a blanket covering you while having a hot flash! ACK!

If you have these plants, pull them off. Don’t use chemicals, you’ll also damage the plant it’s on. The point is to get pull it BEFORE the fruit bursts and leave the seeds waiting to plant themselves next year!