Echinocystis lobata

The author of today’s entry is again Lindsay Bourque. Lindsay writes:

Thanks again to Rusty Clark for sharing an image with Botany Photo of the Day (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool).

Echinocystis lobata is an annual herbaceous vine commonly known as wild cucumber, balsam-apple or mock apple. The species is widely distributed throughout eastern North America, where it is found growing in wet lowland areas. It is also found elsewhere in North America, including British Columbia, as an introduced species. The genus name is derived from the Greek echinos, meaning “hedgehog”, and cystis, meaning “bladder”.

Pictured today is the inflated fruit (though also of interest is its sweetly-scented flowers). These fascinating fruits go out with a bang, having an explosive dehiscence mechanism. Each fruit contains four seeds, which develop under increasing hydrostatic pressure. If birds or small mammals don’t interfere with the fruit before it fully ripens, the fruit will expel its seeds at a speed of 11.5 m/s (PDF)!

Echinocystis lobata

9 responses to “Echinocystis lobata”

  1. George L. in Vermont

    Also very cool are the enormous leaves of the seedlings that grow from these very large seeds – often among the first fully expanded leaves that you see in the spring. They look exactly like watermelon seedlings…

  2. Robert Bergad

    Consider the common name for the dried fruits of this plant. After the fleshy material weathers and begins to fall away, the internal vascular system is exposed and forms a network resembling a miniature luffa sponge (also a gourd). The two valves part slightly and the whole structure resembles a pair of “Lace Panties. ”

  3. C.Wick

    Very beautiful image….love it’s ‘hedgehoginess’. lol
    The seed distribution reminds me much of the ‘Touch Me Not/Jewel Weed’ seed pods. This past summer my son and I discovered they do the same when touched. Thanx for sharing!

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    i do remenber mock apples from my northern
    days watch where thee steps we warned you
    happy hanakkah

  5. Deborah Lievens

    It can also be found at edges of fields and pasture. I think it is very cool plant, but my orchardist husband thinks it is a pest when it gets into our apple trees. It can interfere with harvest. “Weeds of the Northeast” says it is less common that Sicyos angulatus – burcucumber – but my experience in southern NH and adjacent Mass. says no.

  6. Karen Newbern

    I remember seeing these when I was growing up in northern Wisconsin. Very interesting in all stages of growth – flower, green fruit, and dried-out “luffa.”

  7. daniëlle

    Hi, Is there anyone who have some seeds of this beauty ? I’d like to try it in my garden.
    Thanks !

  8. Robert Bergad

    Danielle, I collected mature fruits this fall for a potential art assignment for my students. I should have some seeds available; however, I do not know how to contact you.

  9. Daniel Mosquin

    I generally won’t do this due to lack of time and a proclivity to not give out personal info, but since Danielle requested it, I’ve sent her email address to you, Robert.
    For the most part, though, I’d like people to use the forums for such exchanges.

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