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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Wild cucumber  (Marah spp.
Other common name: Cucomonga manroot)

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Life stages of wild cucumber flowers and fruit among avocado leaves mature plant leaves and flowers fruit seed

Wild cucumbers, also called man-roots, are perennial broadleaf vines. Plants are named for their very large underground stem or for their distinctive greenish, round to oblong fruit capsules that contain seed. They inhabit open areas in forests, woodland, shrubland, and riparian areas throughout much of California, except the Mojave and Sonoran deserts and Great Basin, to 6000 feet (1800 m). Above ground growth may die back in the summer if water is limited. Several native Marah species occur in California and are not considered weedy in natural systems. These include Cucamonga man-root, Marah macrocarpus, and Marah oreganus. Cucumis myriocarpus, which is also sometimes called wild cucumber because it has somewhat large green fruit.


Open sites in forests, woodland, shrubland, and riparian areas.


Marah seedlings develop a several-inch-long, swollen tuber underground before producing any green leaves.

Mature plant

Wild cucumbers grow from a large underground stem tip and have clinging tendrils that climb, entwining shrubs and trees. Each leaf is several inches in diameter and has five to seven lobes that are sometimes toothed or shallowly lobed once again.


Flowers are cup or star shaped and white. Early in the season flowers are found singly. As the season progresses flowers are found in groups. In comparison with Marah species, the similar looking Cucumis species’ flowers are larger, 4/5 to 2-2/5 inches (2–12 cm) wide, and occur singly or with just a few flowers each usually at a separate node. Marah species flowers are smaller, 4/5 of an inch (2 cm) or less wide, and male flowers occur in clusters.


Fruits consist of capsules that contain seed. Depending on maturity and species, these Fruits are 1-1/5 to 8 inches (3–20 cm) long. Cucumis species Fruits are covered with weak prickles while Marah species Fruits are sparsely or densely covered with straight or hooked prickles.


Wild cucumbers grow from a large underground stem and have clinging tendrils that climb up and entwine shrubs and trees. The can also be spread by seed; the fruit ejects the large seeds when ripe.

Related or similar plants

  • Cape ivy, Delairea odorata

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