[The Cucumber Family in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon and Washington]

Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber

Marah oregana

Synonyms: Echinocystis oregana, Marah oreganus

Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)

Tendrils of Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)The photo at right shows the tendrils of the wild cucumber which help it climb objects.
Characteristics:

Wild Cucumber is also called bigroot, manroot, and old-man-in-the-ground. It is a somewhat weedy, viny perennial that arises each year from a massive taprot. The stem is long and thick, with other long viny branches arising from the main stem.

The leaves are stalked and roughly heart-shaped, often reaching more than six inches in length and width. Numerous straight to spiralled tendrils loop off of the stem to wrap around other plants or objects to support the plant (See photo at right.). This is how the plant supports itself off of the ground, so the plant may be trailing or climbing.

The flowers are waxy-white and and star-shaped (5 petals). Individual flowers are single-sexed. The inflorescence is a loose raceme (See photos at top). The fruit are gourd-like, ovate, fleshy at first, with prickly spines (see photo below). The fruits and seeds are poisonous.


Habitat:

The wild cucumber is found in fields, bottom lands, open hillsides, and along roadsides.


Range:

The wild cucumber is found from southern British Columbia south through Washington and Oregon to northern California, and is found mostly west of the Cascade Crest. It may extend further east along the Columbia and Snake Rivers as far as the Oregon and Idaho border in the Snake River Gorge.

In the Columbia River Gorge, the wild cucumber may be found between the elevations of 100'-3000' from Troutdale, OR east to Horsethief Butte.


Ovary of Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)

The photo above shows the inferior ovary of the female flower of the wild cucumber as seen in the Columbia Hills to the north of The Dalles, OR.............May 14, 2006.

Fruit of Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)

Spiny, ovate fruits of the wild cucumber from The Dalles Mt. Road, north of The Dalles, OR.............May 14, 2006.

Tendrils of Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)

The photo above shows another view of the tendrils of wild cucumber which are used (sometimes on itself) to help the plant clamber upwards over other plants.

Fruits of Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)

Spiny fruits of Oregon manroot as seen on disturbed soils at Horsethief Butte in the eastern Columbia River Gorge...........May 10, 2009.

Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)

Oregon manroot beginning to bloom in upper Eightmile Creek in the Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve..........April 12, 2014.

Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana) - Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)

Oregon manroot blooming along the Lyle-Cherry Orchard Trail, Columbia River Gorge.........April 2, 2015.

Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana) - Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oregana (Synonym: Synonyms: Echinocystis oregana, Marah oreganus)

Oregon manroot beginning to bloom at left at about 1000' elevation along the western loop of the Dog Mountain Trail in the Columbia River Gorge...........May 4, 2011. The photo at right shows an early-blooming Oregon manroot blooming at the trailhead on Washington Highway SR 14 for the Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail.......March 4, 2018.

Young leaves, tendrils and flower buds of Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana) - Flower of Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana) - Male flower of Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana)

Newly blooming Oregon manroot as seen on grassy slopes along the Lyle-Cherry Orchard Trail about one-half mile east of Lyle, WA.........March 3, 2015.

Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oreganus (Synonym: Echinocystis oregana) - Bigroot, Coastal Manroot, Manroot, Old Man-in-the-ground, Oregon Bigroot, Wild Cucumber: Marah oregana (Synonym: Synonyms: Echinocystis oregana, Marah oreganus)

Newly blooming Oregon manroot as seen at left on grassy slopes along the Lyle-Cherry Orchard Trail about one-half mile east of Lyle, WA.........March 16, 2017. The photo at right shows Oregon manroot in bloom along the Weldon Wagon Road about a mile east of Husum, WA.......April 19, 2018.

Paul Slichter