Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Wild Balsam-apple, Wild Cucumber
Echinocystis lobata

Family: Cucurbitaceae (koo-ker-bih-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Echinocystis (ak-in-oh-SIS-tiss) (Info)
Species: lobata (low-BAH-tuh) (Info)

4 members have or want this plant for trade.

Vines and Climbers

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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5 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive RxBenson On Apr 10, 2014, RxBenson from Pikesville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I first encountered this plant in the plot next to my home in Milford NH in 1985. I thought the flowers and the "bur cucumbers" were very interesting. I've been out of NH since 1999 and hadn't encountered it anywhere in NJ or MD since, so I ordered seeds, stratified them and planted them with heat on the 6th. They sprouted on the 10th (today)!

I'm starting a natural garden along my low chain-link fence that surrounds my front yard here in the Baltimore area, and it will be joined by virgins bower, which I also first encountered wild in NH.

I think that both are on MD's list of undesirables, but I'll keep them under control.

I'll keep you posted.

Positive nydude On May 13, 2012, nydude from Tupper Lake, NY wrote:

my grandmother used to call this plant "dutchmans breeches": because if you remove the seeds and outer skin you're left with what looks like a little pair of pants...

Positive grik On Jun 19, 2008, grik from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

I haven't actually grown this in my garden because its in the woods nearby. However nobody here mentioned that it smells wonderful in the fall when it blooms. It perfumes the area where it grows. There are a dearth of scented vines in the north.

I took some cuttings this year. Out of 10 cuttings with rooting hormone I only have 1 that rooted. The roots look great but the top looks terrible. Not sure the cutting will generate growth from its nice roots. :(

Positive gerrylondon On Oct 6, 2006, gerrylondon from London, England
United Kingdom wrote:

This plant, in Fall, indeed looks like strings of Chinese lanterns hanging in a tree; the fruits are so exotically beautiful to me. When I saw it growing wild climbing all over a fallen conifer by a river in Toronto, I was amazed. A neighbour says they are plentiful in Northern Ontario. I find it marvellous that a member of the Squash family grows wildly, as an annual, even in hard frost zones. The wild plant is supposed to be inedible (I don't know about the seeds though, which look as meaty as a pumpkin seed) . I can't understand why this plant cannot be bred either for ornament or edibility. The plant has been studied botanically and ecologically, from what I have seen on the net.

Positive Equilibrium On Dec 9, 2004, Equilibrium wrote:

Wild cucumber reminds me of those gorgeous strings of Chinese paper lanterns only they are green instead of red.

This is a fast growing North American native annual vine that is occasionally used for trellises because of its attractive foliage and somewhat understated blooms in late summer to early fall.

If you want to try to collect seed from this plant, watch it like a hawk. Evidently somebody out there actually measured the speed at which seeds were expelled from the seed balls and they were clocked at almost 25mph. Seems as if the instant the pods dry, hydrostatic pressure pushes them out of the seed ball. I actually tried to wait to see this happen and haven't been afforded the luxury of witnessing seed spitting seed balls but not for lack of trying several years in a row. One day the seeds are there... the next they are gone. I was able to get some seed for the first time this year because I placed pantyhose around a few seed balls and rubber banded them off to insure I got a chance to try germinating this seed... finally!

This is a fun plant if plants can indeed be deemed fun.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Oxford, Maine
Pikesville, Maryland
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Milan, Michigan
Pinconning, Michigan
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Shevlin, Minnesota
Milford, New Hampshire
Deposit, New York
Tupper Lake, New York
Mifflintown, Pennsylvania
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
Verona, Wisconsin

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