A wild cucumber seedling, one of many, sprouting this week in my gardens. Soon this plant and the others with it will be extending long vines with tendrils grabbing onto branches and fence wires for support. Starting in July each plant will produce hundreds of small white star-shaped staminate (male) flowers on long spikes and several dozen pistillate (female) flowers. The staminate flowers produce pollen abundantly and both male and female flowers are rich in nectar and sweetly scented. The plants will be a center of activity for many kinds of bees, wasps, butterflies, and moths.
Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is in the family Cucurbitaceae which includes the gourds, melons, and squashes. Although it produces spiny, bitter inedible cucumbers with interiors like miniature loofah sponges and at times becoming a weedy vine, this wild plant has a place along the edges of my gardens.