It isn’t often that a plant makes me leap in the air and then erupt into giggles, but that is exactly what happened last week we came across ‘Pepino-de-São-Gregório’. Had no idea what exactly they were at the time, although I deduced they were some sort of gourd from the flowers and leaves. Then I saw the seed pods and was so intrigued that I couldn’t resist touching them. And that is when it all happened. MrB says my face was a picture! Here are a couple of videos we took after I had regained my composure.
Their scientific name is Ecballium elaterium, and their English name Squirting Cucumber which exactly describe their appearance and behaviour.
Just look again at that first video of the seeds, they are being squirted.The second video demonstrates the speed of the action as well as the fruit pod firing off in the opposite direction to the seeds. The videos don’t quite get across the drama of the moment when you experience this for yourself in person, but hopefully you have got a feel of why they are also called ‘Exploding Cucumbers’.
Whilst common in the Mediterranean they are more localised in the Algarve. You will usually find them on sandy waste ground, we spotted these though on the embankments and paths surrounding the ‘newer’ castle in Alcoutim. As with all gourds (I think!) there are female and male flowers and unsurprisingly given my attempts as a botanical tourist, I’ve only photographed the female! I have also been unable to discover why they are named after Saint Gregory in Portugal. At first I thought it might be because they are considered a medicinal plant, however as many of you may already known Saint Gregory was known for his educational work and church leadership. In fact he is considered the ‘Father of Christian Worship’ so really not sure why an exploding cucumber is named after him. I find it particularly intriguing as the Spanish call them ‘Gherkins of the Devil’! Which reminds me whilst in small doses the ‘cucumbers’ are used by some for medicinal purposes, this is a toxic plant and in high doses is lethal. So be careful.
Haha Becky, I would have known what they were but would probably have let you go ahead and find out for yourself, much funnier!
Actually glad you would have, still makes me laugh thinking about it 😁
They’re very unusual, Becky… but what a way for them to disperse their seeds. Although, I must say, it seems a bit too final when they explode…
But what a way to go!!!
Oh, yes… there is that indeed! 😀
Eurgh, weird! I’m not surprised you had a fit of the giggles.
Was a huge eurgh when it first happened . . . had no idea what I had done initially! Think the giggles were partly relief. Then of course like a kid I had to do it again and again!
Thanks Sherry….agree quite extraordinary
How very strange but what fun Becky! X
Definitely was….kept us amused for quite a while!!!
Denzil’s right, if you’ve never played with a Himalayan Balsam you must look out for them next summer. They’re slower than these little beauties, but great fun!
Ooh….ok will do….😊
That’s great! Here the Himalayan Balsam grows along riverbanks and canalsides and has a similar catapult action on its ripe seeds, but not as violent as your squirting cucumber!
Ooh have to go and look that one up. Plants are incredible aren’t they.
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