Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Wild Cucumber - Echinocystis lobata   (Michaux) Torrey & A. GrayOnly member of Echinocystis in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Violales » Family Cucurbitaceae
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Author(Michaux) Torrey & A. Gray
DistributionApparently limited to the New River floodplains in the northern mountains; recorded only from Alleghany, Ashe, and Watauga counties.

This is a widespread Northern species, from coast to coast. It ranges south mainly to NJ, PA, and KS, and is very rare in VA and northwestern NC.
AbundanceRare to locally uncommon, limited just to the riverbanks and floodplains of the New River (at least the main river and the South Fork). The NCNHP has a State Rank of S1, yet it does not track records as Significantly Rare but as a Watch List species. The website editors consider this in conflict and that if truly S1, it should be listed as Significantly Rare.
HabitatThis is a species of riverside thickets and alluvial woods. As it is a vine, it is normally seen in NC along the margins of a riverside stand of trees or shrubs, even near roadsides.
PhenologyBlooms from July to frost, and fruits soon after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a high-climbing, but annual (and thus herbaceous) vine. It has medium-sized, maple-like leaves, each with about 5 triangular lobes, arranged palmately; the leaf is roughly 4-5" across and long. Across from each leaf is a tendril plus also a raceme of white or cream-colored flowers. Each flower has 6 narrow lobes, with a spread of about 1/2" across. The fruits are quite large, being a bladder-like green capsule that is spiny to prickly, about 1.5" long and about 1" wide. Do not confuse this species with the many grape (Vitis) species; these have usually much larger leaves that do not have distinctly triangular lobes, and they have woody stems. Sicyos angulatus can occur in the same area, but its leaves have somewhat more rotund lobes, often just 3, and its flowers are star-shaped with mostly 5 lobes. Humulus japonicus has strongly retrorse stems that are quite prickly. If the fruits are visible, Echinocystis is very easily identified.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Wild Balsam-apple, Prickly Cucumber
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusW7 [SR]
US Status
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