Echinocystis lobata (Wild Cucumber)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade, sun; moist woods, thickets, along streams|
|Bloom season:||July - September|
|Plant height:||2 to 10 foot vine|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Wild Cucumber has both male and female flowers on the same plant. Individual flowers are ½ inch across, with 6 narrow greenish white petals that are covered in short, glandular hairs and often twisted. Male flowers are in a 4 to 8 inch long erect, loose cluster on a naked stem opposite a leaf. A short column of pale yellow-tipped stamens protrudes from the center
1 to a few short-stalked female flowers sit at the base of the male flower cluster. Female flowers are similar to males but with a short, blunt stigma and a bloated, spiny ovary beneath the petals.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are nearly as wide as they are long, up to 7 inches across, with 5 triangular lobes. The shape is similar to a maple leaf. There are tiny widely spaced teeth all around the edges. Stems are angled, hairless, and have branching tendrils that entwine surrounding vegetation.
Fruit is a pod-like container up to 2 inches long, covered with spines, and holds 4 seeds. The pod looks a little like a spiny watermelon. The container turns papery brown as seeds ripen and persists through winter. When ripe, the bottom of the pod opens up, dropping the seed to the ground.
Wild Cucumber can create very dense, large patches, seeming to smother everything it covers but rarely doing much actual damage. In late summer it's easy to spot even at 60mph, the numerous flowers giving a light green hue to often darker green supporting vegetation. Wild Cucumber is easily distinguished from Bur Cucumber (Sicyos angulatus), which is hairy, has 5-petaled star-shaped flowers, leaves that are much more shallowly lobed, and a cluster of small fruits, each rather smaller than Wild Cucumber's.
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- Wild Cucumber vine
- Wild Cucumber vine
- Christmas tree decoration?
- fruit, after releasing seed
- Wild Cucumber in winter
- atypical leaves with narrower lobes
- spring sprout
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?
on: 2008-06-18 22:23:59
You should note that the flowers smell great. I know it is kind of weedy but we don't have all that many vines that smell as good as this one does. I'm trying to get some started in my garden.
This grows out at the Airport Dog Park in St. Paul. (along with the horrible Garlic Mustard) Every fall I just inhale the perfume.
on: 2010-01-02 20:44:44
I believe I observed the wild cucumber plant and the decomposing seed pods on the eastern shores of Grass Lake in Snail Lake Regional Park. The seed pods were approximately 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length. You can see a photo of one at:
on: 2010-01-02 21:56:04
Yes, Ed, that is wild cucumber fruit.
on: 2010-07-19 08:29:20
This wild cucumber came up from seed, and is growing in my garden. It started out small, and I was not sure what this beautiful looking "ivy" was -not it is huge and is taking over my garden. Are the cucumbers edible? How do you harvest?
on: 2010-07-19 15:54:41
I don't know much about edible plants, but according to the Plants for a Future database Echinocystis lobata is not edible.
on: 2010-08-29 12:15:14
We live in land bordering the Sand Dunes State Forest (SW end of Ann Lake). The Wild Cucumber is actually growing from disturbed mulch from a 10-year-old straw pile. We had no idea what it was until I googled "wild vine with spiked fruit."
on: 2010-09-03 14:40:20
We have them all over the place, even climbing to the top of pine,jack pine trees. They look like Xmas garland.
on: 2011-07-29 13:29:43
The fruit is NOT edible, but the tender leaves and tips ARE and they taste great stir-fried. Many Asian people living here eat them and even sell them, as they resemble Ivy Gourd(Tindora)plants in appearance and taste. You can sometimes catch hawkers selling them at the Como Market farmer's market. In fact, I just had some stir-fried with a little garlic and salt last week and it was euphoric.
on: 2011-09-15 05:27:41
Dried vines with fruits still attached make great Halloween decorations. The dried fruits are spiny so use caution around kids and pets. We string them in the garage to dry which makes it easier to clean up all the seeds that drop out of each fruit. The seeds are about the size of a pumpkin seed.
on: 2012-02-18 17:59:07
I've seen them growing on a friend's farm and around the lake in town.
on: 2012-08-22 13:13:53
I travel Hwy. 27 from 169 to Isle and deliver meals on wheels on the side roads. The plants are all over the trees and sides of the roads this year. I don't think I ever remember seeing so many. It may be due to partly to the fact that we had alot of rain this summer???? I know I don't want them in my yard but they are pretty.
on: 2012-08-31 08:40:51
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is growing heavily all around Lake Mille Lacs and especially on the north shore. It is growng right up to and nearly spilling over onto the Hwy 18 on the north shore of Mille Lacs. The plant seems to be growing extra heavily this year.
on: 2012-09-11 15:40:50
They are growing along the St Louis river between Brookston and Floodwood.
on: 2012-09-14 12:10:22
Wild Cucumber growing near the Public Boat Landing on the north end of Bowstring lake (Itasca County)
on: 2013-05-31 14:58:10
Growing up on the farm in Osakis MN we had them growing behind the buildings in the trees. We would pick the pods and have snowball-like fights, fun :)
on: 2013-06-25 15:08:19
I have a similar weed growing near my garden, but the dry fruit is not spiny, but instead resembles a mini luffa. Perhaps it is a cultivated vine gone wild. Can you identify it?
on: 2013-06-25 17:32:28
John, you can post a photo on our facebook page and we'll see if we can figure it out. If you'd like private assistance with an ID, please consider making a donation to the Minnesota Wildflowers project in return. Your donation is tax deductible!
on: 2013-07-20 18:59:25
I believe these are growing on the chain link fences along I35W through the Blaine and Lino Lakes area.
on: 2013-07-23 07:33:43
Do we really want this vine taking over? It appears to be "consuming" trees, fences and buildings. I am trying to eradicate it before it covers my outbuildings and pasture!
on: 2013-08-20 17:24:32
This plant really scares me. I pull it off all my evergreens when ever I see it. I call it a strangle weed. It reminds me of kudzu down south.
on: 2013-08-20 17:30:02
Wild cucumber may look intimidating, but it's actually pretty harmless. Unlike kudzu, it lives in harmony with its neighbors and doesn't kill them off.
on: 2013-08-23 11:50:58
Oh man I just figured out what that wonderful smell is out in the woods this time of year. And this is it!
on: 2013-12-19 14:48:29
These grow all over around Glenwood and Pope County in general. I love the smell of the flowers! They smell like Lilly Of The Valley to me, somewhat. Very sweet but not cloying. I brought a bunch of seed collected near Terrace in Pope County back to my native home of Helena, Montana and have them growing at my parents home there now too. Hope I have not spread a weed but they don't seem to be that weedy and the climate in Montana is much different than that of Minnesota's. Montana certainly does not have the humidity! The vines are beautiful growing at my parents house now and neighbors always ask what they are and comment on the delicious fragrance.
on: 2014-01-21 15:20:32
This plant grew on the north side of the barn and near the silo on my childhood farm. My grandfather said they had been growing there "forever." Never knew what is was until today. Glad I didn't try to eat one.
on: 2014-07-21 20:05:05
These are growing like crazy on our 5 acres just south of Montrose. Last year we missed one and it killed a 30 foot tall Norway pine. A bird or something must have brought a seed in, now we can't keep up with pulling them out before they go to seed.
on: 2014-08-20 12:27:22
My friend asked if I knew what it was. It is all over her woods behind cabin. Has now ground on top of the water on the cattail plants. Has killed the raspberries. She wants to get rid of it...how?
on: 2014-08-20 13:53:38
Annuals like wild cucumber reproduce by seed, and there is probably a large seed bank to contend with. If you really want to get rid of it, uprooting plants before they flower will prevent new seed production but there's not much you can do about the existing seed bank without killing everything else.
on: 2014-08-24 17:59:12
I have this growing in my backyard (climbing birch trees) in Brainerd.
on: 2014-08-28 14:18:02
Just found out what this vine is called. Our neighbors evergreens get more and more covered every year. We just pulled one off our tree hoping to stop seeds from spreading. I think they are rather ugly covering a whole tree!
on: 2014-09-30 19:16:34
Found this vine today growing on a bank of the Middle River that flows through town. Several of the spiny seed pods do look exactly like a small watermelons.
on: 2015-05-28 13:01:14
My whole yard is being taken over by this, any tips to get rid of it???
on: 2015-05-28 13:28:05
Kristi, it's an annual. The only thing to do is stop it from producing more seed, though it will probably take a number of years for the existing seed bank to be depleted.
on: 2015-08-09 18:01:00
Used to be a batch of these over by Hamilton Elementary school in Coon Rapids, Minn. It was in the wild patch to the east of the school. Houses are there now in that spot.
on: 2015-08-22 09:34:26
Found on a guided tour of this area on 8-8-15.
on: 2015-09-08 19:38:58
I found what is probably this stuff covering over a small tree on the family farm in SE Kandiyohi county. Also found other plants growing nearby. Never saw it before and no idea what it was until searching images of the spiny pods lead me here. I showed my mother who has lived there for over 50 yrs and she never saw it before either. I'd recently (last year) put some fill dirt in that area but the dirt came from elsewhere on the farm where I had not seen this stuff growing so no idea where it came from. Sort of freaked me out with how fast it grew and all those pods on the vine.
on: 2015-09-09 19:54:10
They are also up in Roseau County. I have one climbing the backside of my shed here in Badger,MN.
on: 2015-10-09 17:31:47
Been watching this vine on my walks. They smell great! The prickly cucumber pods are kinda cool! I've gotten some cool pics of the pods opening up and one that's drying. Will wait and pick them. But want to know if you pick the pods before they open, will the seeds germinate next yr? If so how do you know when to open them and how do you store them? I'm open to sharing my pod pics.
on: 2015-10-16 07:31:08
I just found wild cucumber growing on one of my mom's pine trees. We had never seen it before this year, so not sure where it originated from. Maybe a bird!
on: 2016-08-31 15:04:47
Just found some on the banks of Amity Creek.
on: 2016-09-19 17:35:40
Just this afternoon saw this vine for the first time growing on a fence with wild grape vine on my property. Googled it and found you! Thanks!
on: 2016-10-23 19:45:19
Saw this for the first time while walking in Plymouth, MN. Looks exactly like a little watermelon. Googled "green thorny pod MN" and found this site.
on: 2017-07-09 22:05:05
A single seedling of this sprouted on the north edge of my vegetable garden right in front of my chicken coop. I let it grow as my garden is in its second season as a ""Back to Eden" (wood chip mulch) garden. I thought it was a volunteer squash or cucumber so I left the seedling to grow. It doesn't have flowers or fruit yet but I just now identified it by pictures online. I'd like to trellis it up the side of the coop and wonder if I can keep it from invading my garden in subsequent seasons by just removing the pods before they ripen and drop.
on: 2017-08-14 16:14:16
We have wild cucumber vines covering the tree line by our house. It smells amazing, very similar to linden tree blossoms. I plan to gather some seed pods and relocate the vines to my fence line next spring.
on: 2017-09-16 15:53:36
I have them growing on the north side of the lake along a lane
on: 2017-09-25 00:15:31
I grew up with these plants in Maplewood, in a suburb near a small dairy farm. They grew in what I called The Bent Tree Forest, next to a slough. The vines were thin and not attractive, but never caused problems for trees or other vegetation. The flowers were delicate and I still well remember the lovely scent - sweet, light and distinct. This was fifty years ago; very nostalgic.
on: 2018-03-01 17:55:27
This is the plant I am looking for and trying to learn about.. However, it came from "no where" and appears to be smothering my underbrush woods. It appears to me to be taking out my smaller trees I am attempting to replace from the oak wilt. What it the best way to remove this?
on: 2018-07-23 00:52:24
It is not true that this plant is harmless. I have seen it take over and kill half of a 20 ft. white pine, before it was torn out. It is fast growing, and can smother shrubs in one season. I would be very careful about planting it in a garden,
on: 2018-07-23 20:00:08
People forget (or don't realize) that native plants behave differently in cultivation than they do in the wild. We've eliminated nearly all native vines from our own gardens because they've been too rambunctious.
on: 2018-08-07 15:46:59
They are VERY EVASIVE & seem to choke out any vegetation it grows on. Very pretty but very disasterous to other vegitation. Anyone from MN or any one else wanting some, please come to Auburndale/Arpin WI. We are over run with them. FREE FOR THE TAKING!!!!!!
on: 2018-08-07 16:20:17
C. Pongratz, it does indeed climb all over surrounding plants, but it doens't really cause much actual harm. It's a native that's been growing that way pretty much forever and hasn't wiped out anything yet that we're aware of. However, it's probably too aggressive for a cultivated setting, but the same can be said for many other natives. So relax.
on: 2018-08-07 17:10:44
I looked up images of this after seeing it growing in abundance along I-90 between Albert Lea and Rochester. It was clinging especially to evergreens.
on: 2018-08-08 23:07:07
These are on my grapes .Not seeing any grapes, but they were loaded last year. Assuming I need to get this off?? Or it will kill off my grape vines? And how do I do it? Just pull?
on: 2018-08-10 14:08:12
We have vines growing in our grapes and no grapes this year. Coincident? Also growing over our elderberry bushes and pine trees, it takes away the beauty. My husband wants to know what they are god for.
on: 2018-08-12 08:40:11
Thanks for the great info! I think this is what my brother's dog found last night. We then got to spend the next couple hours combing tiny green balls out of cute little spaniel ears. If anybody else has this problem, we resorted to using Cowboy Magic. It's an oil used for detangling horse manes and tails. Nothing else we tried worked.
on: 2018-08-12 20:47:07
These things are not evasive, they are invasive. If they were evasive they would run out of my yard. Instead, I am pulling them off of my blue spruce 20 feet in the air. I think we started getting them when an old farm yard was transformed into mini mansions across the road. Sheila in Roseville
on: 2018-08-13 16:14:31
I drive from Elkton to Preston every day along Highway 16. I've never noticed these vines before but this year they are everywhere! They're very pretty but are they indigenous or invasive?
on: 2018-08-14 19:53:18
I noticed vines with spikes of fragrant white star shaped flowers the last few weeks spreading over vegetation along Lake Avenue in White Bear Lake. Then this evening in Hugo I noticed the same vines. A Google search led me to this page.
on: 2018-08-14 22:03:08
Noticed these vines filling our city drainage and up all the trees near them. Last year they were not there. What an invasion! I think we need to watch this vine here in Minnesota. I worry that it is invading us.
on: 2018-08-15 05:39:38
I see the word "invasive" used a lot on this species. People seem to forget that it's native, so no, it is not invading. It's always been here, climbing up trees and over surrounding vegetation. Maybe it's just more robust than average this year due to extra warm and moist conditions.
on: 2018-08-18 14:13:19
Glad to see it is a native and not an invasive plant. Seeing a lot this year and wanted to know what it is.
on: 2018-08-18 15:54:07
I was walking along the road when it reached out and grabbed me (almost)
on: 2018-08-18 21:14:08
I am so glad I found this page! I have seen this vine in the late summer on the roadside, climbing over shrubs and up trees. I thought it was just light green foliage. Then on a bike ride (Dakota trail in St. Bonifacius MN) I saw close up that the "light green foliage" is actually those stalks of spiky white flowers. And they smell so good!! I have been looking all over to find out what this vine is! YAY!
on: 2018-08-19 09:45:13
K. Chayka & Peter: your magnificent website and app are turning casual observers into budding botanists. My question is related to climate disruption. Could our new climate be changing the vigor of wild/native cucumber vine? Urushiol concentration in poison ivy is reported to be increasing. Mark Seeley reported that our recent weather has broken heat records stretching back beyond the dust bowl era of the 1930's. Perhaps a combination of the humidity and heat is changing their competitiveness?
on: 2018-08-19 09:55:13
Douglas Owens-Pike: that might be a great topic for WCCO's "that's a good question"!
on: 2018-08-19 18:40:26
I laughed at the comment that it reached out and grabbed me while on a walk! This stiff is CREEPY! In all the years I've lived here I have never noticed this plant. And it is choking everything it reaches on Highway 55 for sure from Annandlae to South Haven. Its climbing up the banks and is and headed for the train tracks. The pleasant smell it gives off is to deter you from getting rid of it. Must be stopped!
on: 2018-08-19 23:55:26
Everybody should relax a little. Wild cucumber isn't trying to take over the world, it's just having a really good year. I guess it likes the heat we've had this summer. Rest assured it isn't going to kill off everything it covers, so just take a breath and move on.
on: 2018-08-20 15:00:11
Pretty sure the Russians are responsible for this! It's grabbing cars right off the roads around here. This is how the zombie apocalypse starts...
on: 2018-08-20 20:49:26
I am almost certain that this is a doing of trump! it is all over my yard and keeping me working trying to get rid of it
on: 2018-08-20 21:33:45
Edward, I prefer to think wild cucumber is a non-partisan species. It loves/hates everyone equally. :)
on: 2018-08-21 15:55:37
I had not ever noticed this plant before and was sure it was an invasive species. It is everywhere this year, seems really aggressive and fast growing. Especially when it gets ahold of a pine tree. Anyway, I bought a plant app to identify it.
on: 2018-08-21 17:09:27
This was fun until it became political. Has the seeming abundance this year happened in the past? Is it more prevalent south?
on: 2018-08-21 18:49:10
G Hummer, I heard wild cucumber had a similarly abundant season about 10 years ago. These things can go in cycles, but weather conditions play a big part. We've had extra heat this year and above average rainfall earlier in the year. Maybe it likes those conditions, I don't know.
on: 2018-08-22 06:03:02
I was talking to my farmer neighbor about a strange plant so I googled it and found this site and my answer. He did not know what is was. Since it seemed to spread quite fast we thought it could have been invasive. The next day I was traveling west to the SD border so I paid special attention looking for this plant. From Waverly,MN west to Atwater is was very common. Once past Willmar is started to taper off and seen less as I traveled west to Ortonville.
on: 2018-08-22 10:24:52
I love this plant. There are some areas in rural Minnesota this year where it literally looks like white waves. I was wondering if the late and sudden arrival of warm weather could have helped it get ahead of other plants this year. In the past, I've noticed the seedlings sprouting after perennial grasses and other things have already gotten a start, but this year the seedlings were sprouting at the same time the perennials were just starting to peek out, perhaps reducing early competition just enough to give it an advantage.
on: 2018-08-22 13:19:10
I travel highway 212 to Shakopee daily. Right outside of Norwood, down212 from Bongards there is a creek, and an open field completely covered in the plant. Looks like something out of The Hobbit. Looks so beautiful!
on: 2018-08-27 17:02:56
All over the sides of the road on 35w, it always reminds me of aliens, like invasion of the body snatchers
on: 2018-08-30 10:20:56
Enroute to the Fair on the 29th, my wife and I saw this in places along I35E, and were amazed. When asking an Information Lady at the DNR booth, she answered "wild cucumber" almost before I finished the question. Apparently this has been a very noteworthy observational topic this year, at the fair. As our state warms up, I expect there will be reports of possums and prickly pear moving north, too.
on: 2018-08-30 16:09:22
When I grew up in Aitkin 60+ years ago, we would tear apart the skins of the wild cucumbers and inside are tiny pantaloons! I love to tell kids that.
on: 2018-09-08 21:12:09
While out doing some yard work today, noticed this growing up a telephone pole between our yard and our neighbor's. All those creepy looking spines on the cucumbers. I'd never seen it there before. I definitely don't want it dropping seeds and growing more. I guess I'll cut it on my side and put in the compost--only with the spines that may not be a good idea (?).
on: 2018-10-28 01:14:13
My question is that while removing these, a thorn on the ivy part poked through my glove and straight into my thumb. I havent been able to remove it. Now its almost 2 months later and it feels like a pea is inside my thumb. It feels like scar tissue or that my body encapsulated the thorn. Is this something I should go to the dr for or is it just my body dealing with a foreign item? We had a lot of these in Alexandria, MN Aug-Sept 2018.
on: 2018-10-28 05:48:10
Vicki, wild cucumber does not have thorns or anything prickly on stems or leaves, just on the fruit. I don't think they break off or become embedded in skin that easily so I can't say what really stabbed you but it probably wasn't the cucumber. In any case, we cannot give medical advice. What does common sense tell you?
on: 2019-06-24 17:23:50
I have them growing all over my back yard. I had no idea what it was until recently. I am completely in love with them and the way they grow! I have transferred some to post and beds. They have done very well and I intend to put them at the base of my trees. They climb anything!
on: 2019-07-07 14:31:03
Love wild cucumber. Grew up with these as a kid in Polk county. Never saw them kill trees. Think the tree would have died anyway. Now live in Kittson County and am happy to say I have them. Love the smell of the flowers. And last year was the best I have ever seen them grow. Not so much this year. My reason for having them, bees and butterflies love the flowers. And anything that attracts bees and butterflies, since they need our help, has my vote and gets a spot in my yard and flower garden.
on: 2019-08-12 21:07:47
I've just got this off today. Althought the flowers smell amazing but it does indeed climb all over surrounding plants. I'm thinking about that will let the other one climping on a suitable place in my yard on next year.
on: 2019-08-20 20:00:41
I've been battling this plant on my farm near Milaca for 25 years and now I am going to surrender. This plant is very aggressive can easily smother other vegetation with shade.
on: 2019-08-27 20:07:54
See none of it in the pastures. Cattle apparently grazed it out
on: 2020-01-10 14:42:49
This plant covers my place every year and I'm fascinated by the dried pods, they look like kerosene pressure lantern mantles, does anyone know if the pods are good for anything?
on: 2020-09-17 18:37:14
I have noticed these cucumber vines for the first time in the 13 years I've lived here. I was concerned about them, but my lawn guy and arborist told me all about them. He said if you wait until they turn brown and open them up, you will see a pair of farmers pants inside. Good field trip for my granddaughter who's 8 years old. Has anyone else heard of this?
on: 2022-07-17 16:34:27
I had them coming up with my scarlet runner beans & morning glory vines. They were taking over the bed, so I ripped them out. This is the second time in 3 years they came up on their own. I consider them to be 'invasive' in my beds.
on: 2022-07-18 10:31:32
Deb, just because it's native, doesn't mean it's desirable!
on: 2022-07-27 15:11:23
Grows all over my property on the rainy river east of Baudette
on: 2022-08-16 08:24:56
We have this on our property in Princeton, and i see it all over in this area when out and about. I had thought at first it was some sort of invasive weed and pulled a lot of it out. We have an old brokedown truck in our yard and it is climbing all over it so I thought I'd leave it to camouflage that eyesore. I'm glad I found this page, as it quite lovely