Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An August surprise

Just when I start to get complacent and maybe even a little smug about how well I know my spaces and what grows here?  I run across a new vine that is not only present, but is in this case rampant, and I'm pretty sure I never saw it growing here before.
What I'm referring to is Melothria pendula, commonly known as Guadaloupe or Creeping cucumber.  It has shown up as a lacy covering atop of a little copse of roughleaf dogwood, spreading sideways over the crests of surrounding vinca, creeper and jasmine ground covers, to climb and drape a recurrent hackberry sapling.

At first I thought we had muscadine grapes establishing, which I would have welcomed, but then I realized there were no clusters forming. Whatever those green fruits were, they weren't grapes.
A little bit of searching here and there revealed that what we have is a wild vine, not exactly common but occurring county wide, producing yellow flowers followed by hanging green fruit resembling micro-watermelons, that will eventually ripen to a deep purple black.  Bird planted, most likely.
The fruit is arguably edible depending on the source consulted, with the general consensus being that toxicity can be avoided by eating the fruit while in its unripe green state.  Eating the ripened fruit once it darkens in color will apparently produce a significant "laxative effect".

I doubt I'll test that ediblity premise. I'm not particularly adventurous when it comes to foraging wild plants.  As far as I can determine, the vines aren't invasive and won't strangle out their supporting props.  I think they are quite lovely, so at least for this season, I plan to leave them in place and enjoy their twining tendrils.
Hackberry?  Your date with the pruning shears has been temporarily postponed. So long as you are covered with creeping cucumber vines, you may stay.