In mid-winter a quick growing vine appears in the chaparral and coastal sage scrub and are quickly covered with little white flowers. This is the wild cucumber (Marah macrocarpa). While distantly related to cucumbers, along with watermelons and pumpkins, its seed pods look more like alien space pods than cucumbers (see below). These green spiky pods contain at least four large seeds. By the end of Spring, the plants began to die off, the pods drying brown and bursting, releasing its seeds. But this isn’t an annual plant. Underground is a large tuberous root that can weigh over a hundred pounds. Come next year’s rains and this root will send up more vines.
All photos by Alan Starbuck