Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cucumber Prickles

While wandering in Wildwood one day in September, I headed down to the small meadow beside the creek under the North Bridge. There were tangles of plants still green from their summer growth. I had gone down there fairly regularly throughout the season so I was surprised when I saw a very large vine covering many of the brambles. How had it gotten so big so quickly? As I got closer with my camera, I could see that the large leaves (They were lobed and at first glance reminded me of maple leaves.) and stems were very hairy. They felt furry to the touch. They held onto the other plants with tightly curling, springy tendrils.

                                   There were clusters of lovely small flowers all along the vine.

The fruit that was also on the vine had long clear spikes sticking out. I had never seen such a plant, and I was eager to find out its name. After looking in Newcomb’s Wild Flower Guide, I knew that it had to be One-seeded Bur Cucumber (Sicyos anglatus) – what a funny name!  I wondered why that name was chosen.

                               I checked on the plant weekly and by the end of October, I saw 
                                       that the green spiky fruit had turned brown and brittle.

                                    In fact, when I touched a clump, it fell apart into several bulbs.
                                               Inside each dry prickle there was a single seed.

At last I understood, and the name made sense - one seed in each bur or prickle and a vine sort of like cucumbers. Actually, garden cucumbers that make tasty pickles and one-seeded bur cucumbers that make dry prickles are both in the Gourd family.


  1. Next flower season for this climbing cucumber, let's see what insects are its pollinators. I'll try to take a look myself.

    Thanks for posting this little report with a look at both flowers and seeds.

  2. Thanks for the info! I just found one of this odd, odd plants and was wondering what it was!!