The name immediately makes me want to know more – exploding cucumber plant or squirting cucumber plant. I’m not one of those adrenalin junkies that love anything that explodes and makes noise, but I’m still curious. So what are squirting cucumber plants? Where on earth does the volatile squirting cucumber grow? Read on to learn more.
Where Does Squirting Cucumber Grow?
Squirting cucumber, also known as spitting cucumber (the names just keep getting better!), is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been introduced to other regions as a garden curiosity for its unique fruit. It was introduced as an ornamental curiosity to the Adelaide Botanical Gardens in 1858, for instance. It certainly didn’t stop there and can now be found not only in the Mediterranean, but in southwest Asia and southern Europe.
Considered a weed in Israel, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Morocco, squirting cucumber plants were found growing and eradicated in Washington State during the 1980’s. It is hardy to USDA zones 8 to 11 if you want one.
What are Squirting Cucumbers?
Squirting or exploding cucumber plants belong to the family Cucurbitaceae. Its Latin name Ecballium elaterium is from the Greek ‘ekballein,’ meaning to throw out and refers to the ejection of the seeds from the fruit when it ripens. Yes, folks, that is exactly what all this spitting, exploding, and squirting is in reference to.
Squirting cucumber is a fragile vine with small, greenish yellow flowers that haunts marshes, sandy roadsides, and low woods. Blossoms are bisexual and symmetrical. Often found along railroad tracks, this herbaceous plant of the gourd family has thick, hairy stems on a plant that spreads to about 24 inches (61 cm.) across. Its leaves are alternate on the vine, serrated, and either shallow or deeply lobed.
The plant bears 2 inch (5 cm.) bluish green hairy fruit. Once the fruit has reached maturity, it explosively ejects the brown seeds contained therein and detaches from the stem. These seeds may vault 10 to 20 feet (3-6 m.) from the plant!
Intrigued? Then you probably want to know if there are any uses for squirting cucumber.
Squirting Cucumber Uses
Is squirting cucumber useful? Not so much. Many areas consider it a weed. That wasn’t always the case, however.
Before we delve into the plant’s historical usage, let’s be clear that squirting cucumber contains high levels of cucurbitacins, which can be fatal if ingested.
That said, the bitter cucurbitacin was cultivated in England and Malta into the nineteenth century to control worms. It has been used as a medicinal plant for over 2,000 years with explosive effects upon the human body worthy of its name. Apparently, the more benign effects treat rheumatism, paralysis, and cardiac disease. The root is said to be an analgesic and topically squirting cucumber was used to treat shingles, sinusitis, and painful joints.
However, the more volatile effects are purgative and abortive. Large doses have caused gastro enteritis and death. At any rate, modern herbalists do not utilize squirting cucumber at this juncture nor should you.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.