'Quite spectacular': Wild cucumber vine invades P.E.I. farm

It could be the backdrop foliage for a Jurassic Park movie: an invasive vine called wild cucumber covers everything in its path.

This Irishtown farmer may have one of biggest giant wild cucumber patches on the Island

John Lauwerijssen from Irishtown, P.E.I., peers out from under the archway made by the crawling invasive species of wild cucumber. (Pat Martel/CBC)

A P.E.I. farm may have one of the biggest infestations of an invasive vine in the province, and the farmer says there's little he can do to get rid of it.

If we have some, I just pull it out by hand. But this is too much.- John Lauwerijssen

Wild cucumber covers an embankment and the trees behind the barns at John Lauwerijssen's dairy farm in Irishtown.

Lauwerijssen was curious about what plant was taking over his property. 

"[People] were always talking about the stuff growing in the ditches, and so I asked, 'What is it?' and they said wild cucumber," he said.

John Lauwerijssen says he's able to pull out small patches of wild cucumber on his lawn, but the takeover behind his barns is too much. (Pat Martel/CBC)

With its tiny white flowers, the vine is an attractive addition to a garden trellis or fence, but set free in a meadow or a roadside ditch, the vines wrap their clingy tendrils around anything in their path.

The most important thing is to not let it go to seed.- Beth Hoar

"It looks pretty but that's about it, I guess," Lauwerijssen said of the tangled mass on his property. 

The vines can grow up to 20 metres and have turned part of Lauwerijssen's property into the perfect pre-historic foliage backdrop for another Jurassic Park reboot.

This spectacular wild cucumber vine invades a P.E.I. farm

6 years ago
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This spectacular wild cucumber vine invades a P.E.I. farm

"Maybe you have to go through it with a tractor, I don't know," Lauwerijssen said, about getting rid of the plants. 

Beth Hoar, chair of the PEI Invasive Species Council, hasn't visited the wild cucumber patch on Lauwerijssen's farm.

'We are a volunteer group, so we don't have the capacity to do field work so it is up to the homeowner to manage the invasives on their property,' says Beth Hoar, chair of the PEI Invasive Species Council. (Pat Martel/CBC)

But when shown a photo, Hoar said it was a pretty impressive, albeit unwelcome, sight, and possibly one of the largest patches of wild cucumber she's seen on the Island.

"It is quite spectacular when you see an infestation like that. It's not in a positive way," said Hoar.

Block light for other plants

Wild cucumber is not poisonous, but it can do considerable damage to trees and shrubs by blocking sunlight.

"They climb up the other plants and basically cover the plants and that shades them, and then the plants can't synthesize so they eventually die," said Hoar.

Wild cucumber has taken over the embankment and trees behind this farm in Irishtown, P.E.I. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Getting rid of wild cucumber can be cumbersome.

The province said it doesn't have a program to control or eradicate the vine, directing people to get in touch with the Invasive Species Council.

Don't let it go to seed

While the council doesn't have resources to go out and remove the invasive species, it does offer advice to homeowners on the best plan of attack.

"In the fall, the plants die back right to the ground and then they will germinate from seed in the spring, so the most important thing is to not let it go to seed," said Hoar.

Wild cucumber can best be eradicated by destroying the pods in the spring, before they go to seed. (Pat Martel/CBC)

If you don't stop it, the seeds drop to the ground. Not all of those seeds will germinate every year, creating a seed bank of plants to eventually spring from the ground.

"So even though you've pulled those plants that year prior to it producing seed, you have to control it until that seed bank is depleted," said Hoar.

The council does keep track of the bigger patches of wild cucumber, and Hoar said they will add the Irishtown site to its list.

Wild cucumber 'decorates' these evergreens on the Blue Shank Road near Summerside, P.E.I. The homeowner says he's tried to pull the vines down but they keep coming back.

Meanwhile, Lauwerijssen is not too concerned about the vine spreading — so far, the nearby highway keeps it confined and the plant is not showing up in his farm fields.

He is also taking steps to keep it off his yard.

"If we have some, I just pull it out by hand. But this is too much," he said with a laugh.