This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Greek, to throw out). Cucurbitaceae. Squirting Cucumber. A perennial trailing vine, easily grown as an annual in any garden, cultivated for its explosive fruits.
Fig. 1370. Ecballium Elaterium. (X1/3)
When ripe, the oblong prickly fruit squirts its seeds at the slightest touch, or sometimes at the mere vibration of the ground made by a person walking by. Some of the old herbalists called this plant Cucumis asininus. Another curious fact about the plant is that a powerful cathartic is made from the juice of the fruit, which has been known for many centuries. A preparation of it is still sold in the drugstores as Trituratio Elaterini. The drug "elaterium" is derived from the juice of the fruit Ecballium has only 1 species, and is closely related to the important genera Cucumis and Citrullus. With them it differs from Momordica in lacking the 2 or 3 scales which close the bottom of the calyx. Other generic characters are: prostrate herb, fleshy, rough hairy: leaves heart-shaped, more or less 3-lobed: tendrils wanting: flowers yellow, the staminate in racemes, pistillate usually from the same axils with the staminate flowers; calyx 5-cut. It is a native of the middle and eastern Medit. regions, especially in rich moist forests.
Elaterium, A. Rich (Elaterium cordifolium, Moench. Momordica Elaterium, Linn.). Squirting Cucumber. Fig. 1370. Described above; grown in this country as a curiosity. B.M. 1914. Wilhelm Miller.