Wild cucumber is a native annual that grows quickly, vining over trees and other vegetation. You may recall seeing its star-shaped leaves, white flowers and spiky seed pods along roadsides and fences as growth exploded last year in mid to late summer. While the plant is aggressive and will seem to smother any other plants it comes across, it rarely inflicts any damage.
Look for seedlings now
Wild cucumber seeds are very opportunist and hardy, so if you spotted the plant last year you will likely see it again this year.
If you would like to avoid having an invasion on your property, the best way is to start hand pulling plants while they are small. Seedlings are easily pulled from the ground, and removing them before flower and seed production should reduce the number of plants seen the following year.
Seedlings have begun popping up in southwestern Minnesota, so now is a great time to start checking your property for small plants. Watch for the distinctive star-shaped leaves and curling tendrils to identify smaller plants.
Persistence is key
If you don’t notice the plants early in the season, you can cut the vines at the base of the plant once they are too big to pull. You may need to monitor the plants after cutting and follow up with more trimming as needed.
Persistent pulling and cutting is the most effective way to deplete the seed storage and eventually get rid of the plant in the area. Herbicide use is not recommended as it could negatively impact nearby vegetation.