South Dakota Native Plant Research
Cucurbitaceae : Echinocystis lobata

Cucurbitaceae : Echinocystis lobata


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Family Name


Common Name

Wild Cucumber

Native American Name

Lakota: waȟnáȟnaheča


Echinocystis lobata is a long (up to 25 m), climbing, annual, hairless vine with long tendrils that allow it to attach to vegetation, fences and other structures. The alternate, simple leaves grow to 17.5 cm long and about as wide, usually having 5 (3-7) triangular lobes and margins with widely spaced teeth. The plants are monoecious, the male flowers are arranged in 10-20 cm long racemes growing from the axils of leaves and the female flowers are in small clusters attached to the same leaf axils. The flowers have 6 greenish white petals that are often twisted and covered in short, glandular hairs, the male flowers with 3 stamens and the female with a pistil having a 2-celled ovary and broad style. The fruit is an inflated, ovoid, green pepo with small spines, that explodes upon drying ejecting 4 dark 12-20 mm long seeds. Wild cucumber blooms from June through October in moist rich soils in woodlands and along waterways throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Wild cucumber is an interesting plant to grow in a native plant garden. It can be very aggressive and needs structure to climb upon in order to show it off. The fruits look like small prickly cucumbers and split open dropping seeds, ensuring new plants in the next year. The flowers are fragrant and attract native bees and butterflies. This was not one of my favorite plants in my garden, constantly attaching to trees and shrubs.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect seed from browning fruit. A small net bag should be tied around the fruit to catch the seeds when they are ejected.

Germination: Seeds need a 60-day cold treatment and fall sowing is recommended.

Soils: Rich moist organic soils.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Cucurbitaceae : Echinocystis lobata