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Plant Profile: Squirting Cucumber (Ecballium elaterium)

Ecballium elaterium plant 2Squirting cucumber is a half hardy perennial native to the Mediterranean, northern Africa and temperate areas of Asia where it grows in disturbed soil such as roadsides and waste areas. It is a member of the cucumber family (Curcurbitae) but unlike most cucumbers does not climb and instead remains prostrate forming a ground cover. The leaves are triangular, tough and have wavy margins. All summer pale yellow nodding male and female flowers appear on short stems in the leaf joints of the same plants, the females flowers singly, the male flowers in clusters. The hairy fruit that follows is about two inches long, and when ripe shoots out its seeds in a mucilaginous substance when even slightly touched. The mucilaginous substance is poisonous when ingested in large quantities and may cause skin irritation. An interesting plant for children if grown with caution.

Ecballium elaterium fruitType: Half hardy perennial usually grown as an annual.

Bloom: Male and female pale yellow nodding flowers on the same plant all summer

Size: 9-12’ H x 6-7’ W

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average-lean, medium moist to dry, very well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 8-10

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: None of significance