The Attack of the Wild Cucumbers

We often wake in the night wondering:

“What’s that?”

Living next to the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge means that one gets accustomed to strange sounds coming out of the darkness.

The Jurassic cry of a sand hill crane gliding low over our roof.

The shriek of a screech owl diving for a mouse just yards from our bedroom window.

The feeding frenzy of coyotes that is close, way too close.

The bellowing of bulls or the bawling of calves on the distant hillside – making us wonder what terror has aroused them.

But lately another more disquieting sound bends our ears in the night, the crinkling and crackle of wild cucumber vines on the move.

Each night they attack.

Each day we fend them off.

This stuff was not there yesterday.

After blanketing the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge, the wild cucumber deluge flows into our yard.

It sneaks up on our garden

And climbs the pines, eventually crushing them under its weight.

Here it has engulfed a bush on the far side of the refuge (about a mile from the house).

They look innocent up close.

But given time, even the thinnest slice of time, they will engulf just about anything.

This was once an old milk house, now a sauna. We foolishly encouraged grape vines to grow on it but the wild cucumbers took that as an invitation.  You can see how they have advanced in the distance since the first photo taken a mere fifteen minutes earlier.

I fear the worst.

Author: Almost Iowa

60 thoughts on “The Attack of the Wild Cucumbers”

  1. It sounds like an insidious villain, but I’m sure for someone brave enough to live next to the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge, when girding up for battle with it you’ll stay cool as a cucumber.

  2. And you were worried about my fictional town. Greg — what a nightmare. My glowing pigs would be terrified. 😀
    The stuff sounds as bad as kudzu, Actually worse, you can eat kudzu. Not that I know anyone who actually has, but still… Watch out where you store that week wacker. Hugs.

  3. I have a grape vine on the back fence (a bad call by the previous owner) that has to be forcibly removed (read ‘hacked at like Jason de-populating a dormitory’) from the nearby aspen trees several time a summer. In fact, if I dawdle too long, it’s reaching for belt loops and shoe laces, trying to drag me in.

    1. It says right there in the constitution that you can carry a machete – but if you conceal it, you have to take classes and get a permit. Personally, I prefer a gas-powered weed whacker. I never go for my walks with Scooter without one.

  4. Hmmm… I looked up wild cucumber, and found Echinocystis all over Minnesota. But none of the Marah species live in Minnesota. Maybe your wild cucumber’s a different genus.

    Well, enough plant geekery. Whichever you have, it’s a demon plant for sure. It looks as bad as our wild grapes, or Japanese honeysuckle. It amazes me to watch vines grow. They’re not only fast, they’re sneaky, and some, like rattan, will strangle a tree to death. I don’t think the cucumber would, but you never know — be careful!

    1. I read the Wikipedia article on Echinocystis and found this little nugget “the Menominee of Wisconsin made a bitter extract from the roots for use as a love potion” I am sure that it was no more pleasant than Madam Ruth’s Love Potion Number 9 that smelled like turpentine and looked like indian ink. 🙂

      The wild cucumbers will kill trees. I must have pulled thirty pounds of the stuff off a small evergreen near our pasture – but on the larger trees, it looks like Christmas garland.

  5. If we don’t hear from you in the next week or so, is there anyone we should notify? Stan? Next of kin? Remember “The Thing” if it gets cold and the heat is off, don’t step outside to check the oil tank.

  6. Yikes! Here we have kudzu and Virginia Creeper. They use power lines to cross the paved streets/roads. When the lines get too heavy the county sprays them. It’s interesting to see green everywhere and brown, leafy power lines.

    1. My neighbor is a sheep farmer. The stuff keeps its distance from his place. It is my ace in the hole. On our old place, along the Cedar River, buckthorn took over our oak grove and goats were the answer.

  7. I’ve never seen a wild one. Do they at least taste good?
    My friend is fighting off an attack of wild pea-vines while I struggle to nourish my pea-vine visitor. I like the flowers, and it’s blooming (in a very weak sense) where nothing else grows. Friend says it will conquer all, but if it conquers dead space I’ll be happy.

  8. You keep doing these timely posts. I spent the morning pulling Virginia Creeper and Oriental Bittersweet. I loaded up the truck and hauled it to yard waste at recycling. I figure I got maybe 2% of it. If you find a professional gunslinger to run those wild cucumbers out of town, please send him or her my way when you’re done. 🙂 I’m allergic to poison ivy also so I had long pants and shirt on but when I showered I made sure I used the poison ivy cleaners on my face and neck. So far so good. 🙂

    1. I’ve never been around poison ivy or oak. There isn’t a lot of that where I grew up. I have had to deal with morning glory vines though. They’ll eat up grass in no time. I didn’t know there was such a thing as wild cucumber vines. Now I know.

    2. I’m allergic to poison ivy

      Me too and it becomes a problem when the garden gets over-grown due to a string of rainy days. I have to wear jeans, long-sleeve shirts and gloves in the muggy summer heat. Ugh.

  9. It’s kind of pretty, though, until you wake up one morning and can’t move as you are slowly encased in vines. We are like that with blackberry vines. They climb trees and are as thick as my wrist! It’s a never-ending battle!

    1. At least you get the blackberries. They call these cucumbers but the fruit is inedible. In fact, native Americans cast the fruit on the water to kill fish. I don’t think I will try that.

  10. I have a similar problem with poison ivy. It had been allowed to run rampant on the ranch for close to twenty years; it now believes I am an interloper and that it owns the place. Has been trying to run me off ever since I got here.

    1. Ooooh, I am hyper-allergic to poison ivy. If I am exposed to slightest touch of it, I break out in hives everywhere. My wife it, swamp-thing. Fortunately, a shot of Prednisone clears it up.

      1. I am too. I’ve had three shots this year. However, a trick I recently learned: goats milk soap over a natural loofah will stop a reaction in its tracks with a good scrubbing. Keeps it from spreading or even reacting if you catch it soon enough. (Only thing I’ve ever had work other than the shot, and I’ve tried everything.)

  11. I remember the wild cucumber plague of 09. My advice is to hire some professional gunslingers and run those vines out of town before it is too late. Don’t wait until they reach the house. By then no one can help ya.

  12. Why have I never heard of wild cucumber before? Is it just in Minnesota? Kudzu is horrible in the south, but interesting enough I have never seen it in Florida.

      1. I am most grateful for your link so that I could learn about the plant. Good luck, my friend!

  13. And I thought kudzu was bad! Yikes!! I have to beat back Virginia creeper and virgin bower (clematis), but it never gets quite that bad. The Boston ivy is threatening to eat the front of the house, though.

    1. Normally they are somewhat controllable but this year has been wetter than normal. Around here, the ragweed grows to over eight feet and the wild cucumbers grow on top of that.

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