By mid-August, Wild Cucumber vines (Echinocystis lobata) can be readily spotted along the roadside, gamboling along the tops of fence rows, frothy flowers catching the light…
Or clambering over goldenrod, bounding across the backs of competitors.
This ladder, left in place for a couple of weeks, was soon inundated with wild cucumber, frolicking, foaming up the rungs.
Wild cucumber vines have five-lobed leaves that resemble somewhat those of maple trees. The plants climb by means of long tendrils, which curl tightly around anything they come in contact with. Two sets of flowers are born along the vine. The male flowers develop on long panicles that arise from the axil of each leaf. The clumps of small white flowers give the vine a frilly sort of appearance. The female flowers are produced on short stalks opposite the petiole of the leaf, below each cluster of male flowers.
Wild cucumber is a member of the gourd family. It’s common name reflects the appearance of its cucumber-like fruit. Unlike cucumbers, however, the fruits are not solid. Rather, they are bladder-like, and contain a few seeds. In the fall, the fruit dries out and becomes paper-like. The seeds fall from openings in the bottom of the fruit.
It’s hard not to smile at the “joie de vivre” that this exuberant plant exudes.