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, hedgehog and bladder; from the prickly fruit). Syn. Micrampelis. Curcurbitaceae. Wild Cucumber. Wild Balsam-Apple. A profuse native annual vine which is a favorite for home arbors; the other species not generally cultivated, except perhaps the perennial-rooted megarrhizas.
Most of the species are annual herbs, with branched tendrils and palmately lobed or angled leaves: flowers small, white or greenish, dioecious, the campanulate calyx 5-6-lobed and the corolla deeply 5-6-parted; stamens in staminate flowers 3; ovary 2-celled, with 2 ovules in each: fruit fleshy or dry, more or less inflated and papery, opening at the summit; seeds flattened, more or less rough. - The species are about 25, in the warmer parts of the western hemisphere, about 10 of them in the W. U. S., and 1 in the eastern states. The eastern species (E. lobata) is one of the quickest-growing of all vines, and is therefore useful in hiding unsightly objects while the slower-growing shrubbery is getting a start. Cogniaux, in DC. Mon. Phan. vol. 3, 1881, makes three sections of this genus, and this plant the sole representative of the second section, or true Echino-cystis, because its juicy fruit bursts irregularly at the top, and contains 2 cells, each with 2 flattish seeds. The Megarrhiza group (kept distinct by some) is distinguished by its thick perennial root, large turgid seeds and hypogeal germination.
Torr. & Gray. Leaves wider than long, deeply 5-lobed, slightly emarginate at the base: tendrils 3-4-branched: staminate flowers small, in many-fid. panicles longer than the leaves; calyx glabrous: fruit egg-shaped, sparsely covered with prickles. New Bruns. and Ont. to Mont, and Texas, growing in rich soil along rivers and in low places. A.G. 14:161. R.H. 1895, p. 9. G.C. III. 22:271. G.W. 10, p. 499. - Sometimes becomes a weed.
Naudin (Megarrhiza calif arnica, Torr.), is sometimes grown in fine collections and botanic gardens. It is a tendril-climber, reaching 20-30 ft. in its native haunts: leaves deeply 5-7-lobed: flowers monoecious, greenish white, the corolla rotate: fruit densely spinose, globose or ovoid, 2 in. long; seed obovoid, nearly or about 1 in. long and half or more as broad, margined by a narrow groove or dark line. S. Calif. - Odd in germination (see Gray, Amer. Journ. Sci. 1877, and Structural Botany, p. 21). L. H. B.†