Wild Cucumbers - Cucamonga manroot
Marah macrocarpus (Greene) Greene var. macrocarpus



Fire impact on plants

Paradise Fire

Cedar Fire

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 is there waiting. 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.



North side of Poway Road and where the shots below were taken.


South side of Poway road where the hillside is barren accept for the Wild Cucumbers


In April, of 2003 I discovered a vine that was totally covering some of the wild bushes around my property. I have lived here for 6 years and this was the first time is saw this phenomena. I discovered this weird pod with spines on it. I guessed at what it might be and surfed the internet until I found the excerpts below describing it as a wild cucumber... As I proceeded to stop it's continued growth, I took pictures as I discovered more about wild cucumbers. The most amazing thing is that it is also called a 'manroot' because of the huge tuber it has for a root.

Wild Cucumber0429-leaves.jpg (141965 bytes)

Hanging within the shrub
0429-onbranch.jpg (133426 bytes)

This is one of the larger pods0430-pod.jpg (100675 bytes)


This is a medium size pod0430-pod2.jpg (42870 bytes)

Something in the wild is eating the seeds 0429-pods.jpg (156729 bytes)

This one is smothering the other vegetation0429-smother.jpg (189583 bytes)

Some digging reveals the source of the vine0429-vine.jpg (140438 bytes)

Chipped away pieces of the 'root'0429-cucs.jpg (148560 bytes)

Finally got to the bottom 0429-chop.jpg (136066 bytes)

The root is next to the bucket 0429-manroot.jpg (154570 bytes)

There are 50 pods in the 5 gallon bucket 0430-bucket.jpg (127066 bytes)

Seeds come out white, and then turn red0429-wildcucumber.jpg (121878 bytes)

The white seed is from a pod. The red seed was laying on the ground0430-seed.jpg (32104 bytes)

The next plant is on the property0430-onproperty.jpg (196466 bytes)

It was really smothering vegetation             0429-smother3.jpg (95419 bytes)

 The leaves cover the plant it is hanging on0430-leaves.jpg (141635 bytes)

 This one had a side root coming off the main stump root0430-root.jpg (146701 bytes)

And another one smothering vegetation0429-smother4.jpg (133944 bytes)

These are the stems coming out of the ground of the third one0501-stems.jpg (147319 bytes)

The root begins to reveal itself as the dirt is cleared away0501-source.jpg (136562 bytes)

The shovel gives a reference for the size of the 'root'0501-mancahones.jpg (124011 bytes)


The vines severed and the root extracted


Wildflowers o Southern California
Chaparral and Riparian Plants
Wildflowers of Tucson


Wild 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.

Lobos Creek Dunes and Valley Wildflowers and Flowering Shrubs
Wild Cucumber looks similar to the non-native Cape or English Ivies. They are all plants that try to cover everything within reach. If you see tendrils (leafless, thin stalks) wrapping around other plants, dead branches, etc. helping to stabilize and pull the vine around, then it's the Wild Cucumber. The Ivies wrap their entire branches around their neighbors. The Wild Cucumbers can be seen on the fence (along with both Cape and English ivy) dividing the dune area from the creek.  
There are 2 kinds of white flowers on the vine, male (with pollen) and female (with an ovary). The single flower is female and the flowers grouped on a long stem are male. The other common name, Manroot, presumably comes from the very large, vaguely human body shaped tuberous root. It keeps the plant alive after the leaves die off in Autumn and sends out new leaves each Spring. The fruit is pictured below.

The "cucumber" is a round, spiny fruit, an inch to several inches wide. Its seeds are poisonous and were used by some Native American tribes to chemically stun fish making them easier to catch. When ripe, the fruit pops open and tosses the very large seeds out.