Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is a native, annual vine with hand-sized, star-shaped leaves, found throughout much of the United States and all of Minnesota. In early to mid-August, very conspicuous small white flowers on long stalks grow skyward, making this vine go from an unnoticeable background plant to a very conspicuous large vine.
It’s often very noticeable along roadsides, forest edges, hedgerows and fences. The fruit is a small, cucumber-like spiny pod. It more closely resembles a very small spiky watermelon. When the seed pod is fully mature it will explode when touched, ejecting the seeds. Check out this slow-motion video: Exploding cucumbers!
As a native it’s generally considered non-problematic, although if it’s growing on your garden, tree or fencerow you may view it as a weed.
Hand-pulling is the best option for removal. Foliar herbicides are not recommended because they are likely to negatively impact nearby vegetation, such as the plants the vine is growing on.
If you hand pull before flower and seed production you’ll likely to have less wild cucumber the following year.
Quick identification guide for wild cucumber
- Moist rich soil in areas such as woodland edges, landscapes and thickets.
- Creeping or climbing annual vine that grows to 25 feet.
- Twining stems are often grooved and angled.
- Bright green plants climb on surrounding vegetation.
- Leaves are Maple leaf-shaped and sandpapery with a heart-shaped base.
- Long, curly, branched tendril is opposite the leaf.
- Flowers are white to greenish-yellow or yellowish-green.
- Fruit is covered with sharp spines and contains 4 seeds.
Watch this video from WCCO News that aired in August 2018.