Wild Cucumber: Next Spring

As I reported in August, this is the first year that I have been watching a Wild Cucumber vine in Eliza Howell Park. One of the fascinating features of this large climbing vine is that it is an annual plant. It has grown some 20 feet over blackberry brambles this year, starting from seed.

As an annual, it will be back in this general location next year only if it successfully produces seed that sprouts here in the spring.

In mid-August, the female flower, with the potential of developing the fruit (the “cucumber”), was ready to be fertilized.

“Self seeding annuals” is a term to describe plants that reliably produce new plants from seed each year on their own. In our home garden, Larspur is a good example of a reliable self-seeding flower.

Thinking about self seeders, I have been focusing on the fruit or seeds of Wild Cucumber.

By mid-September, the fruit was evident, green and near full size, but not yet ripe.

This week I noted that the seeds are ripening. Different plants disperse seeds differently; in the case of Wild Cucumber, the mature fruit / seed pod opens at rhe bottom, so the seeds can drop or spray out.

In this photo, the seed pod on the left is open, while the one on the right remains closed.

There are only a few seeds in each fruit. I found an open one that still held three seeds, providing an opportunity to observe the inside structure of the fruit at maturity.

The seeds are larger than one might expect, nearly a half inch long.

Most of the plants that are found in the park are perennials. Where no one plants new annuals each year, those that reappear year after year need to be very successful at self seeding.

Wild Cucumber has a reputation of being an excellent self seeder, so there is reason to expect that it might be growing here again next year.

Perhaps early June will be a good time to start to look for the growth of next year’s vines.

The other large vines in Eliza Howell are perennials, so I know right where to find them next year. Self seeding annuals, even when successful, are usually near where they were the previous year, but not in the exact same location.

Answers to the questions of whether and where will not be available till next spring.

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