Most people are familiar with a cucumber, which is the vegetable that grows as part of the gourd family, but most people are not aware of the wild cucumber.
The wild cucumber, member of the cucurbitaceae gourd family, similarly to squash and pumpkins is a large oval and spiky fruit that grows in the spring and often die during fall. When it begins to ripen throughout spring the color changes from a bright green to yellow. Simultaneously, it swells and the bottom of the pod opens up, dropping the seeds to the ground.
Wild cucumbers are toxic, consuming the fruit can make you immensely sick and it can even result in death. It is unknown if any native animal consumes this plant, but it is vital for Santa Clarita Valley hikers to be vigilant while embarking on nature walks through wilderness areas. Here are a few tips to identify and breakdown the structure of the wild cucumber:
- It contains a vine that has long twisted tendrils that entwine the leaves, stems or branches to surrounding vegetation.
- It’s usually found on trees and shrubs hanging on low branches next to waterways.
- It contains both male and female flowers on the same plant that contains twisted greenish-white petals.
- Male flowers are in a 4 to 8-inch-long erect cluster on a naked stem opposite a leaf.
- Female flowers sit at the base of the male flower cluster with a short blunt stigma and a bloated ovary beneath the petals.
- The leaves are up to 7 inches wide in length and width with 5 triangular lobes and contain tiny spaced teeth all around the edges.
- The fruit is a pod-like container up to 2 inches long covered with spines and holds four seeds.