Ecballium elaterium - Squirting Cucumber

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Cucurbitales - Family: Cucurbitaceae

Squirting cucumber

Above: It's difficult to decide whether the leaves are heart-shaped or triangular.

This sprawling plant with its round leaves and yellow flowers can catch the unwary by surprise! Once ripe, its fruits explode, squirting its seeds out in a rather pulpy liquid. It's not fun for all of us, though, as the liquid can cause skin irritation and inflammation.

This plant grows almost anywhere from wasteland, rocky and stony habitats, walls and fallow farm land. Its flowers are yellow and the fruit small, oblong and green. It has rather tuberous roots that have long been used in the preparation of herbal medicines.

A close-up picture of the flowers abd fruit of Squirting cucumber

The yellow flowers and oblong, green fruits of Squirting cucumber.

Squirting cucumber, which belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae, flowers from March onwards and is common throughout the Mediterranean.

The plants shown on this page were photographed on the north coast of Crete in April.