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Ecballium elaterium

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Photo by Don Martinson.

A young caudex by Bernard Gacongne.

The leave by Bernard Gacongne.

The female flower by Bernard Gacongne.

The seeds by Bernard Gacongne (Centimetres).

Author: Achille Richard, 1824
Origin:  Albania, Algeria, Baleares, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Corse, Cyprus, East Aegean Islands, France, Greece, Iran, Italy, Krym, Lebanon-Syria, Libya, Morocco, North Caucasus, Palestine, Portugal, Sardegna, Sicilia, Russa, Spain, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Yugoslavia
Soil:  Rich Mix
Water:  Medium
Sun:  Maximum
Thickness:  8 Centimetres
Height:  80 Centimetres
Flower:  Yellow
Propagate:  Seeds
Names:  Squirting Cucumber, Touch-Me-Not, Exploding cucumber, Springgurke, Spritzgurke, Jumping cucumber, Spraying cucumber, Wild Balsam-apple
Synonyms:  Elaterium cordifolium,
Momordica elaterium,
L. 1753.
Bryonia elaterium, E.H.L.Krause
Ecballium agreste, Rchb.

This member of the Cucurbitaceae family was described by Achille Richard in 1824. It is found in most of the Mediterranean and Macronesia, growing in rich but drained soil with some water and lots of sun. The swollen rootstock can grow to eight centimetres, the vines will grow to 80 centimetres, and the flowers are dark yellow. The plant can only be reproduced by seeds.

The genera name means 'a throwing out' after the seeds. The species name from Greek elatos; 'to drive' or 'strike', referring to the forceful expulsion of seeds from this plant; also the extract is a violent purgative.

The spraying cucumber developed a unique strategy for the spreading of its seeds: While the fruit ripens, pressure develops inside, and one side of the fruit grow more than the other. When the fruit separates from the stalk, being touched by an animal, the sticky seeds squirt out, adhering to the animals skin and falling of from it some days later, which is the way this plant disperse its seeds. Hence the name: Squirting cucumber.

SubFamily: Cucurbitoideae, Tribe: Benincaseae.

The male flower by Bernard Gacongne.

The fruits by Bernard Gacongne.