Wild Cucumbers -
April 6, 2005 - I'll tell you about the picture
The other pictures
(a note- that's what makes this year with the rain
so different and will prove to be a pivotal "tipping point", like
with Kudzu. These are an amazing network of canals laid under the
host plant that would require the host plant to be droughted to
death before the vines would die - my opinion. Am only smart - not
I figure there's enough beauty shots, but I've got
some great ones of mega clusters. I've been finding a lot. I have a
friend lives in Poway not far from the 7-11 that's a spell after the
Henry's. I do music recording there some times. So is Wild Cucumber
all over Poway too? I mean, can you spot it in areas as you drive
I was googling a bit more about Marah Macrocarpus and it was so cool to see your site providing current sightings.
My name is Brian Taraz and I live in Chula Vista. I'm not an outdoors guy but I was hiking with my daughter when I saw the fruit a couple of weeks ago. Had never seen it before. I wrote a story about it and it's in the current San Diego Reader (shoes on the cover). I guess you could read the article on line at http://www.sandiegoreader.com/ in the City Lights sections. The article is called "Bitter Fruit Surprise".
Anyhoo . . . I've become a little obsessed with this plant and I think your "heads up" on it is very accurate. Normally I think it's a fairly benign creature, but due to the rains it's all over San Diego and not just on the trails. The entire Mission Hills that you see on the south side of the I-8 is covered in it, if you go up Montezuma to SDSU or branch off to Fairmont the hills are a virtual cascade of the plant, Traveling down I-5 its in the canyon nooks from Carlsbad down getting thicker from Del Mar South, along the south hills that are by the 52 and Marion Bear State Park, at the base of Mount Soledad . . . and throughout Chula Vista as I mentioned.
I mention this because, as part of my obsession, I came across a person with a Marah problem on his property. He used some "Round up" in a section he had cleared for landscaping. I explained it has a huge root and that the huge vines that were directly adjacent to the space with a ton of fruit on them need to have the fruits harvested and the vines pulled off if he really wanted to stand a chance. We negotiated a little and in exchange for clearing the fruit and vines in this one area he is going to allow me to dig around and try and find the actual taproot. I'm pretty excited about this.
What I'm wondering is if you've heard from anyone else beside that botanist that has more familiarity with the fruit and the seeds. There are no documented cases of death from this plant, and Christopher Nyerges- the outdoor guy - says in his book that he tried some of the root after boiling it extensively but it was too bitter.
I think this years growth, by the way, will not prove to be benign at all. This plant I'm clearing has laid an amazing network of quarter inch think canal-type vines along the ground within the plant it has overgrown, which it subsequently covers with leaves and the unseen payload dangling under the canvas. I cannot believe that there has ever been this much fruit in San Diego since the city was this developed. Furthermore, those vines will take a decade long drought to dry up and go away so, next year when it rains it'll only take half as much rain (In my unscientific opinion) to promote twice as much growth as that which is currently out there.
The odd thing is that the local media, aside from the Reader, doesn't seem to "get" that, at the very least, this is a "news" item - Like the desert blooming. 10 out of 10 normal, mall going suburbanites to whom I've shown the fruit have never scene it and are stymied.
Anyhow . . . pardon this disconnected ramble. It was nice to see your info.
If you know of any sites or folks with an interest in this, in particular traditional medicinal uses, I'd love to know.
I'd be happy to send you some pics. I'm sure you have enough stuff on your hardrive though.
Bitter Fruit Surprise
I went for a trail walk with my daughter, Nazareth,
on Thursday, March 10, in the Rice Canyon preserve west of
Southwestern College. I noticed green vines overgrowing some of the
traditional bushes and trees. I looked more closely and saw what
turned out to be the spiked, kiwi-green, lemon-sized fruit of the
manroot plant. I picked three of them to take home with me.
|March 26, 2005 - I received an email from botanist Ron Clark - Humboldt County, California|
|"My name is Ron Clark, and I am a botanist in Humboldt county, but I
have a great deal of experience with the flora of southern California. I
appreciate your efforts to inform people about Marah, but I wish to make
some suggestions for revision.
"People often consider Marah to be a NOXIOUS WEED! When they first encounter it, but the fact is that the plant is native, and an important part of forest ecosystems from Washington to Baja. I feel that when a person sees your efforts to remove the Marah from your property it reinforces this incorrect stereotype, and makes the reader believe that Marah has very adverse effects on plants around it, which it does not.
Removal of the Marah from your property can have a detrimental effect on native gramivores (seed eating animals) that eat the large seeds. It should also be known that Marah is highly poisonous to people. I hope you will consider these ideas, and you may contact me if you want anymore advice."
|At my request he followed up with more information on April 1,
Ron Clark: "I believe that in your haste to prove an answer for the
mortality of the laurel sumac (Melosma lauriana), and mesquite (Prosopsis
sp.) you may have overlooked other likely explanations to their mortality
such as the fact that from about 2001 to 2004 southern California
experienced the WORST draught in its recorded history, and over the last
two summers I have watched many Melosma bushes die because although they
are highly drought adapted plants they contain more water in their stems,
and foliage than any other dominant chaparral shrub I have studied. Once
trees or shrubs have been stressed by drought it leaves them highly
vulnerable disease infection, or infestation by tree eating beetles as we
saw in the San Bernardino mountains.
It must be remembered that Marah is a native species, and all native
species have an important role to play in the ecosystem around them, and
we should not allow our preconceptions about what is beautiful to guide
our thinking of what is right or wrong in the environment.
|March 20, 2005 - Our first visit to Lake Poway revealed the Wild Cucumber was going strong. This year it had already made it to the south west side, taking over several Laurels. Last year, it seamed to be restricted to the north and east side of the lake.|
Plants have already been popping up all over up. It has been one of the rainiest years, so I expect a lot of growth this year.
February 4, 2004
On October 26 & 27, 2003, we had devastating fires here in San Diego. They got very close and burned many hills around Poway. The California Laurels are starting to come back, and the Wild Cucumber were already growing, looking for somethng to climb on. On this one hillside off Poway road, there was even mud covering the plants from a recent rain, but they manage to work their way to sunlight.
o Southern California
Chaparral and Riparian Plants
Wildflowers of Tucson
GARDENING WITH NATIVE PLANTS: WILD CUCUMBER (Marah) by Jake Sigg
Cucumber/ Manroot/ Bigroot - Marah oreganus - Paul Slichter
Wild Cucumber is also called 'bigroot', 'manroot', and old-man-in-the-ground. It is a somewhat weedy, viny perennial that arises each year from a massive taproot. The stem is long and thick, with other long viny branches arising from the main stem.
The leaves are stalked and roughly heart-shaped, often reaching more than six inches in length and width. Numerous straight to spiraled tendrils loop off of the stem to wrap around other plants or objects to support the plant (See photo at right.). This is how the plant supports itself off of the ground, so the plant may be trailing or climbing.
The flowers are waxy-white and star-shaped (5 petals). Individual flowers are single-sexed. The inflorescence is a loose raceme (See photos at top). The fruit are gourd-like, ovate, fleshy at first, with prickly spines (see photo below). The fruits and seeds are poisonous.
|Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus), is also known as manroot because of it huge, fleshy root, sometimes reaching 6' in length. This is a branching, climbing vine with palmate leaves up to 4" across. It has both male and female flowers on the same plant. The fruit is a spiny, prickly green "cucumber" shaped pod containing shiny black seeds. The plant is not edible. Seeds were used as beads by the Indians, and ground to make a kind of mascara. Leaves were boiled to treat hemorrhoids.|
|Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus) Wild Cucumber or Chilicothe is a trailing vine from a large, fleshy root and has long, stalked leaves. The Native Californians made necklaces of the seeds, polishing them by rubbing the seeds along their oiled bodies. The Wild Cucumber is from the Gourd Family and blooms from January to June.|
Creek Dunes and Valley Wildflowers and Flowering Shrubs