Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Echinocystis lobata (Michx.) Torr. & A. Gray
Preferred Common Name
- wild cucumber
Other Scientific Names
- Echinocystis echinata (Muhl. ex Willd) Britton, Sterns & Poggenb.
- Echinocystis echinata Vassilcz.
- Hexameria echinata (Muhl. ex Willd) Torr. & A. Gray
- Micrampelis echinata (Muhl. ex Willd.) Raf.
- Micrampelis lobata (Michx.) Greene
- Momordica echinata Muhl. ex Willd
- Sicyos lobatus Michx.
International Common Names
- English: balsam-apple; mock cucumber; mock-apple; prickly cucumber; wild balsam-apple; wild balsam-apple; wild mock cucumber
- French: concombre grimpant; concombre sauvage
Local Common Names
- Austria: igelgurke
- Czech Republic: Štětinec laločnatý
- Denmark: vild agurk
- Estonia: hälmine ogakurk
- Germany: Stachelgurke
- Hungary: süntök
- Latvia: dygliavaisis virkstenis; dzeloľainais gurķis
- Lithuania: adatainais dzelongurkis; dygliavaisis virkštenis
- Norway: tagg-gresskar ; vagg-gresskar
- Poland: kolczurka klapowana
- Romania: bostănaș spinos
- Slovakia: ježatec laločnatý
- Sweden: taggreva
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
E. lobata is an annual herbaceous climbing plant with spiny fruits, native to eastern North America, occurring widely mainly in the area of Great Lakes. In its native range it occupies wet to moist habitats: riverine and lacustrine banks, thickets and also roadsides. It is not reported as an endangered species there. It has been reported as weedy beyond some parts of its natural range (Stocking, 1955; Mack 1991; USDA-NRCS, 2014) and as a naturalized species in the western U.S. (Mack, 1991).
The species has spread throughout much of Europe (absent from Britain and Ireland) up to the border of Asia after its deliberate introduction at the turn of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century (Tokarska-Guzik, 2005). Being cultivated as an ornamental and medicinal plant in many regions it had escaped easily into the “wild”. The species invades natural riparian habitats as well as ruderal sites, mostly on base-rich soil. It has the potential to grow fast and, competing for light, to cover the resident (herbaceous and scrub) vegetation.
Over a single century it has become naturalized and invasive, particularly in central Europe, and currently it is listed among the “100 of The Worst” Invasive species in Europe (DAISIE, 2014). It has also been listed as an invasive plant species in regional and/or national lists. However, the species is not included in any EPPO lists (EPPO, 2014).
The range increase is connected with the continuing cultivation of the plant, enhanced by internet commerce (Tokarska-Guzik, 2005; Lenda et al., 2014). A distinct link may also be seen between migration and river valleys (Tokarska-Guzik, 2005; Zając at al., 2011; Rutkovska et al., 2011).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Violales
- Family: Cucurbitaceae
- Genus: Echinocystis
- Species: Echinocystis lobata
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Echinocystis lobata (Michx.) Torr. & A. Gray is the only accepted species name within the monotypic genus Echinocystis (The Plant List, 2013). The plant was described for the first time under this name in 1840 by Torrey and Gray, but as early as in 1793 a name only, i.e. Momordica echinata Muhl., was mentioned by Britton and Brown (1913) referring to this species. The basionym for the valid name Sicyos lobatus was given by Michaux in the early 1800s. The plant was also described under the name Micrampelis lobata in 1890 (Britton and Brown, 1913). There are no infraspecific taxa.
The genus name Echinocystis is derived from the Greek echinos, meaning “hedgehog” and cystis meaning “bladder”. The most widely accepted international common name, as in North America where the species is native, is wild cucumber (USDA-NRCS, 2015). Earlier, prickly cucumber was the only customary name in North America (Hayward, 1891).
Wild cucumber is also the common name for perennial plants from the genus Marah (the manroots, wild cucumbers, or cucumber gourds) from the same family; native to southern California and Baja California (Mexico). Some authors include the genus Marah within the genus Echinocystis.
DescriptionTop of page
Adapted from Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2016) and various sources:
A frost-tender annual climbing plant (vine) with a sparsely hairy stem, reaching 6 (8-12) metres in length (according to different sources) and shallow roots 4–15 cm long by c. 1 mm wide.
Stems strongly branching and creating numerous clinging and also branching tendrils (to c. 15 cm long) which facilitate climbing on abutments (mostly other plants).
Alternately-arranged, softly and shortly hairy, palmate leaves - with 5(3-7) sharply-triangular lobes - pointed, lightly lobed and/or toothed at the edge, with long petioles. Length of mature leaf c. 8 cm.
Plant monoecious. Six-parted, radially symmetrical flowers, with white (greenish-white, to more or less yellow) corolla, in axils of leaves - female flowers borne singly (or 1-2), male flowers numerous, collected into long and erect inflorescences (racemes or panicles), each 5–30 cm long by 2–8 cm wide. Male flowers star-like with long, thin petals and 3 (2) united stamens; anthers 3, pale green, S-shaped. Distinctive ellipsoid to cylindrical, cucumber-like, fruit (an inflated capsule) with 12–18 thin, long green veins, mature 2.5-5.0 cm in length by 2.5–3.5 cm wide, armed with weak prickles. A pepo fruit, very moist but drying to tan after the seeds are expelled. The fully expanded green fruit contains four to six seeds (1-6) of about 5 × 15 mm (Gillard and Walton, 1976). The brown seeds are more or less flattened.
Plant TypeTop of page Annual
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
The native range of E. lobata includes Canada (9 provinces) and United States (41 states), reaching in the north-east to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the Atlantic coast, in the south to the Ohio River and in the west up to the Rocky Mountains. USDA-NRCS (2014) provides a detailed account of its distribution in the USA. In the southeast part of USA it is very rare (USDA NRCS, 2015). According to Britton and Brown (1913), westward it mostly occurs as an introduced plant. It has been introduced into the far west (Choate, 1940).
Currently, the species is widespread in many regions of Central and Eastern Europe, and rarer in northern parts. Its exotic/introduced range comprises numerous European countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine and the European part of Russia (DAISIE, 2014 and regional/national databases). It is common in all regions of northwestern and central Russia (Notov et al., 2011) and is listed among species that have widely expanded or have shown a tendency to expand in regions of the Southern Urals (Abramova, 2012).
According to an assessment of the risk of spread due to global warming made by Gjershaug et al. (2009), the species has the potential to spread to the southernmost parts of Norway.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Austria||Present||Introduced||1920||Fritsch (1923); Bagi and Böszörményi (2008)|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Present||Introduced||Invasive||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Kovacevic et al. (2013)|
|Bulgaria||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1967||Invasive||Petrova et al. (2013)||Recorded in the first time in the region of Svishtov town|
|Croatia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||CABI (Undated); Devidé (1956); Hulina (1998)||Widespread in some parts of lowland Croatia; Original citation: Boršic et al. (2008)|
|Czechia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||1911||Invasive||Pyšek et al. (2012)|
|Czechoslovakia||Present||Introduced||1906||Lohmeyer and Sukopp (1992)|
|France||Present||Introduced||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Klotz (2007)|
|Germany||Present||Introduced||1922||Meusel et al. (1992); EPPO (2013)|
|Hungary||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Solymosi et al. (2005)|
|Latvia||Present, Widespread||Invasive||Rutkovska et al. (2011)||On banks of rivers such as Daugava, Lielupe, Musa and Memele|
|Lithuania||Present||Introduced||Gudžinskas (1999); Gudžinskas et al. (2014)|
|Poland||Present, Widespread||Introduced||1937||Invasive||Tokarska-Guzik (2005)||Probably brought into Poland from two directions: from Germany and from Ukraine|
|Romania||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Anastasiu and Negrean (2005); Oprea and Sîrbu (2006)|
|Russia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Notov et al. (2011)|
|-Central Russia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Vinogradova et al. (2010)|
|-Northern Russia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Notov et al. (2011)||North-west part of Russia|
|-Southern Russia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Abramova (2012)||Territory of Bashkortostan and several neighboring regions of the Southern Urals|
|Serbia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||CABI (Undated)||The species can be considered to be widespread, particularly in the Central, East and Southeast parts of Serbia; Original citation: Vasic (2005)|
|Slovakia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Eliáš (1997); CABI (Undated)|
|Slovenia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||CABI (Undated); Jogan (2013)||Original citation: Zenik (2012)|
|Ukraine||Present||Introduced||1929||Invasive||Protopopova et al. (2006)||First recorded in Transcarpathia|
|-New Brunswick||Present||Native||USDA-NRCS (2014)|
|-Nova Scotia||Present||Native||USDA-NRCS (2014)|
|United States||Present||Native||USDA-NRCS (2014)|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Native||USDA-NRCS (2014)|
|-New Hampshire||Present||Native||Stocking (1955)|
|-New Jersey||Present||Native||Stocking (1955)|
|-New Mexico||Present||Native||Stocking (1955)|
|-New York||Present||Native||Stocking (1955)|
|-North Carolina||Present||Native||USDA-NRCS (2014)|
|-North Dakota||Present||Native||Stocking (1955)|
|-Rhode Island||Present||Native||Stocking (1955)|
|-South Dakota||Present||Native||Stocking (1955)|
|-Texas||Present||Introduced||Correll and Johnston (1970); USDA-NRCS (2014)|
|-Utah||Present||Introduced||Welsh et al. (1987); USDA-NRCS (2014)|
|-West Virginia||Present||Native||Stocking (1955)|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
E. lobata is reported as a weedy plant beyond its native range and also as an introduced plant outside the probable area of its origin in eastern North America (USDA-NRCS, 2014). As reported by Mack (1991), the plant was commonly sold in the U.S. for arbours and for its unusual fruits. As a result, from its native range it expanded into western areas of the USA, where it is now a naturalized plant (Correll and Johnston, 1970; Welch et al., 1987).
The species was brought to Europe as an ornamental and medicinal species in the late 19th and early 20th century, at first being planted in botanical gardens (Tokarska-Guzik, 2005; DAISIE, 2014). Thereafter it was also cultivated in private gardens from where it was often recorded on fences. The plant was also grown for its decorative properties, especially its interesting fruits (Soó, 1951). Bagi and Böszörményi (2008) consider the possibility of accidental introduction with cotton transport.
E. lobata has become naturalised in the regions of Central and South-Eastern Europe (Tutin, 1968), reaching the southern Urals (Abramova, 2012). The first European record from the ‘wild’ state dates from 1904 (Meusel et al., 1992; Balogh, 2001), however the first specimens were identified as Sicyos angulatus (Jávorka, 1937). The species was found to be self-dispersing in 1906 in the former Czechoslovakia (Lohmeyer and Sukopp, 1992), in 1922 in Germany (Meusel et al., 1992), in 1929 was found in the Ukraine (Protopopova et al., 2006) and in 1949 in lowland parts of Croatia (Devidé, 1956). Numerous spontaneous stations were recorded as early as in the first half of the 20th century in Austria and Hungary (Heine and Tschopp, 1953; Priszter, 1958). Priszter (1955, 1958) collected much floristic data for the species from Hungary and listed its occurrence from many European regions.
The species is still currently commonly cultivated and escaping into the wild in many parts of Europe. In some regions of Europe (central and eastern) a rapid range increase (invasion) has been observed since the second half of the 20th century, e.g. in Poland (Tokarska-Guzik, 2005) and in Lithuania (Gudžinskas, 1999), particularly near cultivation and naturalization sites (Tokarska-Guzik, 2005). It is also mentioned among rapidly acclimatizing species in the territory of southeastern Europe, e.g. in the Volga Basin, a region from which it was first recorded only in the 1970s. (Borisova, 2011).
At present E. lobata is one of the most rapidly spreading alien plant species in many areas of central Europe and is considered to be an invasive species in Europe (DAISIE, 2014). It is listed in a number of national alert lists including Hungary and Poland (e.g. Botta-Dukát and Balogh, 2008; Tokarska-Guzik et al., 2012).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Hungary||North America||1904||Escape from confinement or garden escape (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Bagi and Böszörményi (2008)||Collected herbarium specimen by G. Moesz|
|Czechoslovakia (former)||North America||1906||Yes||No||Lohmeyer and Sukopp (1992)|
|Czechoslovakia (former)||North America||1911||Yes||No||Pyšek et al. (2012)|
|Austria||North America||1920||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Fritsch (1923)||Observation by A. Heinrich|
|Ukraine||North America||1929||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Protopopova et al. (2006)||Transcarpathia was a region of first record|
|Slovakia||North America||1933||Yes||No||Slavík and Lhotská (1967)|
|Poland||North America||1937||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Lademann (1937)||Introduced probably from other European countries (Germany and Ukraine)|
|Croatia||North America||1949||Yes||No||Devidé (1956)|
|Germany||North America||1955||No||No||Priszter (1955)||Introduced probably from other European countries (Hungary)|
|Romania||North America||1955||Yes||No||Priszter (1955)||Introduced probably from other European countries (Hungary)|
|Switzerland||North America||1955||Yes||No||Priszter (1955)||Introduced probably from other European countries (Hungary)|
|Bulgaria||North America||1967||Yes||No||Petrova et al. (2013)|
|Serbia||North America||1976||Yes||No||Šajinović (1976)||First recorded in Vojvodina (N Serbia)|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
The main risk for further spread of E. lobata should be considered to be both the continuing cultivation of the plant and its spontaneous spread, mainly associated with watercourses (Tokarska-Guzik, 2005; Protopopova et al., 2006; Dajdok and Kącki, 2009; Rutkovska et al., 2011). Identified pathways for accidental introduction of the species to new areas are likely to be by river corridors. Even though the seeds of E. lobata are relatively heavy, they can be transported by water during flooding (DAISIE, 2014).
Human-related long-distance dispersal of the species is even more important as the growth in sale of alien plant species via the internet has increased globally, despite regulations enforced in individual countries (Lenda et al., 2014). According to the latest data obtained by Lenda et al. (2014) E. lobata is commonly sold via the internet.
HabitatTop of page
E. lobata prefers wet and moist conditions, originally occurring in riverine forests of North America. The oldest sources stated that within the limits of the natural range it appears on rich soil along streams (Torrey and Gray, 1840). It is also found along creeks, in drainage ditches, and in compost piles (Gillard and Walton, 1976). According to EUNIS code the habitats for E. lobata in its native range are: G: Woodland, forest and other woodland land and C3: Littoral zone of inland surface water bodies (Klotz, 2009). The Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2016) lists it as found in “Bottomland forests and thickets, riparian woods, marshes and marsh edges, thickets in pastures, fencerows, ditches, lake shores, railroad banks, dunes; 0–2000 m”.
Beyond its natural (eastern) and introduced (western) range in North America it is locally a weed along stream courses (Mack, 1991). It is sometime reported as a weed in maize and soyabeans. For example, in Ontario, wild cucumber and horseweed [Conyza canadensis] are encountered frequently in association with maize fields under no till (Murphy et al., 2006).
In its introduced range E. lobata colonises mainly riparian habitats (e.g.Ťavoda et al., 1999; Tokarska-Guzik, 2005; Oprea and Sîrbu, 2006; Protopopova et al., 2006; Anastasiu et al., 2008; Borisova, 2011), wetlands and woodland margins. Török et al. (2003) reported for Hungary that E. lobata colonises floodplains, gallery forests, disturbed bogs and marshes with a high invasion probability. Similarly, Zenik (2012) for Slovenia includes E. lobata among frequent species in floodplain woods and swamps in the alluvial plains. Hulina (1998) confirmed that it is a very aggressive member of the bank vegetation (Cuscuto-Convolvuletum) in lowland parts of Croatia. From Poland it is described as an element of margin communites from the Artemisetea class and from riversite Osier stands (Salicetum triandro-viminalis): it is noted also in rush communities (Phalaridetum arundinaceae and Glycerietum maximae). In recent time it more and more often turns up in communities from the Bidentetea class, developing on the periodically uncovered draw-down zones alongside open water (Dajdok and Kącki, 2009).The species is recorded from a range of ruderal sites: fences, refuse heaps, around cottages, abandoned gardens, and municipal refuse tips (Tokarska-Guzik, 2005). Similarly, Borisova (2011) reported that in Russia it is naturalized in different natural ecotopes and is abundant in disturbed habitats.
Anastasiu et al. (2008) identified EUNIS habitats, namely C3.2. - Water-fringing reedbeds and tall helophytes and F9.1 – riverine and lakeshore scrub - as the most frequently invaded wetlands in Romania. Klotz (2009) supplemented the habitat preferences for E. lobata with E5 – Woodland fringes and clearings; G1 – Broad leaved deciduous woodland and I2 – Cultivated areas of gardens and parks.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Cultivated / agricultural land||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Disturbed areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Rail / roadsides||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Natural forests||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Riverbanks||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Wetlands||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Scrub / shrublands||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
E. lobata is a seed-propagated plant. Dispersal involves seeds and fruits. The new plants emerge in spring, usually near last-year’s parent plant. It grows fast, producing numerous fruits. Every fruit contains 4 (1-6) seeds. Dry fruits split open when ripe; they can remain for a longer period on the stems.
The wild cucumber is pollinated by insects but it is also self-fertile (DAISIE, 2014). Bagi and Böszörményi (2008), from the background of a literature review, reported diverse groups of pollinator insects from the natural range (i.e. bees, wasps and flies).
Physiology and Phenology
Flowering in the North American native range is from June till October. In the secondary/introduce range it germinates in May, flowers from July to September and dies in October/November. Relatively high soil temperatures are necessary for seeds to germinate in spring (DAISIE, 2014). Seeds are dormant when shed. Dormancy is due to conditions within the embryo which prevent germination and make after-ripening necessary (Choate, 1940). After-ripening occurs in nature in the soil. In experiments, it was found that intact seeds of E. lobata failed to germinate and required stratification at 5-10°C for at least two weeks, depending on the age of the seeds and the area of origin (Choate, 1940). Klotz (2009) reported that seeds in the soil may remain viable for more than one year.
In North America it is associated with boreal forests, cliffs, northern lowland forest, sand dunes, sedge meadow, shrub carr and southern lowland forest (WISFLORA: Wisconsin vascular plant species (on-line resource). Wherry et al. (1979) mention moist alluvial soil, stream banks and edges of woods as habitats for the species.
E. lobata has a preference for rich and moist soil (Torrey and Gray, 1840); and full sun or partial shade. According to Borisova (2011) the species demonstrates a wide spectrum of adaptive responses, high ecological plasticity, high seed productivity, and stability to unfavorable environmental factors.
ClimateTop of page
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Ds - Continental climate with dry summer||Tolerated||Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||500||1500||mm; lower/upper limits|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
According to Bagi and Böszörményi (2008) the most useful data about natural enemies of the wild cucumber originate from the USA but most often these are associated with a range of cultivated genera from the Cucurbitaceae family. Also most of the insects (and, rarely, nematodes) mentioned, have wide host ranges. In North America, the striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittata Fab) is known to be a herbivore and a transmitter of the cucumber-wilt bacteria. Anasa armigera Say (Hemiptera, Heteroptera) was recorded as another herbivore in the native range (DAISIE, 2014).
E. lobata is a natural host of several viruses: the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), which is one of the most important plant pathogenic viruses (also in Europe), the bean yellow mosaic potyvirus (BYMV), tobacco ringspot nepovirus (TRNV), the prune dwarf ilarvirus (PDV), the Prunus necrotic ringspot ilarvirus (PNRSV) and others.
E. lobata has been listed among the hosts of the Downy Mildew fungus Pseudoperonospora cubensis, which occurs in nature only on plants of the Cucurbitaceae (Palti and Cohen, 1980). Some other fungi are also mentioned; they are mainly characterized as having a wide host spectra.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural dispersal of E. lobata involves self-propulsion by the falling out of mature seeds close to the parent plant. In seed dispersal and fruits containing seeds, water plays the greater role, since E. lobata most often appears along watercourses.
Accidental introduction is associated with the dumping of plant rubbish from gardens. The most important pathway for the spread of E. lobata, however, is by intentional introduction. It is still often cultivated in home gardens and allotments, from whence it may become a garden escape, and naturalize. Seeds of this species are available on sale, especially via the internet (Lenda et al., 2014).
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Escape from confinement or garden escape||Yes||Tokarska-Guzik, 2005; Bagi and Böszörményi, 2008; Dajdok and Kącki, 2009|
|Flooding and other natural disasters||Yes||Bagi and Böszörményi, 2008; Dajdok and Kącki, 2009|
|Garden waste disposal||Yes||Tokarska-Guzik, 2005; Dajdok and Kącki, 2009|
|Horticulture||Yes||Lenda et al., 2014|
|Internet sales||Yes||Yes||Lenda et al., 2014|
|Medicinal use||Yes||Bagi and Böszörményi, 2008|
|Ornamental purposes||Yes||Yes||Bagi and Böszörményi, 2008; Tokarska-Guzik, 2005|
|Seed trade||Yes||Lenda et al., 2014|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Human health||Positive and negative|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
E. lobata has been listed amongst the 100 most dangerous invasive plant species in Europe (DAISIE, 2014). In the introduced range this species is invading river valleys, shores of lakes and wetlands, creating tangled carpets and dense mats eliminating other herbaceous plants, and it is even able to break down and eliminate scrub (e.g. Dajdok and Kącki, 2009). Beneath the interlaced layers of its shoots the quantity of light in the lower part of resident vegetation is drastically reduced, which can suppress the development of other plants.
Even though until now this has not been confirmed with scientific results, the influence of wild cucumber can be fundamental, since it is turning up in two types of protected natural habitats: hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of montane to alpine levels (code 6430) and alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (code 91E0) (Tokarska-Guzik et al., 2012).
Being an annual plant species, E. lobata can appear to different extents in different growing seasons. After a massive invasion in one year it does not always reach such a high frequency in the following growing season. However as a rule, once it has colonized places, E. lobata can persist for many years.
The species has established in some protected areas - for example in Poland it was recorded in 9 national parks (Bomanowska et al., 2014). It has spread from settlement areas to semi-natural and natural communities in the Kampinos National Park in Poland (Kirpluk and Bomanowska, 2015).
Social ImpactTop of page
According to different North American sources and also Klotz (2009) the plant contains toxic substances – cucurbitacines.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Competition - shading
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
UsesTop of page
Already in the first half of the 20th century Choate (1940) claimed that E. lobata had no economic use and was of little horticultural value, at least in its natural range. In North America the species was used as a medicinal plant (as a ‘panacea’).
Beyond the natural range E. lobata has some positive economic impacts, being grown (and sold) as an ornamental species in some European countries.
Uses ListTop of page
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
- Seed trade
Detection and InspectionTop of page
It is easy to detect while flowering, being visible even from a distance. Aerial photographs in the flowering period could be one of the quickest methods for detecting large populations of Echinocystis.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Echinocystis is a very distinct genus, easy to recognized; most nearly allied to Sicyos. E. lobata could be confused with Sicyos angulatus, which is considered as rapidly increasing its distribution area in Europe. These species can be differentiated by their fruits; those of S. angulatus are non-fleshy, spiny and gathered in glomerules (EPPO data sheet).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
So far, intentional action assigned to the combating of E. lobata has not been undertaken on a large scale. Indirectly the plant can be removed during treatments for the control of other invasive species e.g. knotweeds (Fallopia spp.) on the edges of water. On account of the character of such habitats, action assigned to the protection of valuable natural areas should rely on pulling, cutting out or mowing wild cucumber plants (Dajdok and Kącki, 2009). The possibility of applying chemical means must be adapted to the conditions and local provisions (in many countries using chemicals such as herbicides in the vicinity of waters is forbidden).
Undoubtedly, in limiting the spread of E. lobata, the education of society can play a greater role in encouraging the discontinuation of further cultivation.
The use and adaptation of methods already tested for similar species (e.g. Sicyos angulata, although the latter is a perennial plant) should be considered in combined hydrological and mechanical management methods (Kil et al., 2008).
Efficient biological control methods are not available (Klotz, 2007).
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
A correct understanding of the risk posed by this species is required, especially the recognition of the biological and ecological effects of E. lobata on native plants, particularly those of ecological importance, in European countries.
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
01/06/2015, Original Text by:
Dr Barbara Tokarska-Guzik, University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland
Distribution MapsTop of page
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