Ecballium elaterium - (L.)A.Rich.
Common Name Squirting Cucumber
Family Cucurbitaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards Poisonous in large quantities[7] (this probably refers to the fruit). The juice of the fruit is irritative to some skins[148].
Habitats Hot dry places on waste ground and roadsides[45, 86], usually close to the coast[7].
Range Europe - Mediterranean. Naturalized in Britain at a few locations along the south coast[17].
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Half Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

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Ecballium elaterium Squirting Cucumber
Ecballium elaterium Squirting Cucumber
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Ecballium elaterium is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.


 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses
None known
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Abortifacient;  Analgesic;  Antirheumatic;  Cardiac;  Kidney;  Purgative.

The squirting cucumber has been used as a medicinal plant for over 2,000 years, though it has a very violent effect upon the body and has little use in modern herbalism[238, 268]. The juice of the fruit is antirheumatic, cardiac and purgative[1, 7, 61, 86, 89]. The plant is a very powerful purgative that causes evacuation of water from the bowels[238]. It is used internally in the treatment of oedema associated with kidney complaints, heart problems, rheumatism, paralysis and shingles[86, 238]. Externally, it has been used to treat sinusitis and painful joints[238]. It should be used with great caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[4, 238]. Excessive doses have caused gastro-enteritis and even death[7]. It should not be used by pregnant women since it can cause an abortion[7]. The fully grown but unripe fruits are harvested during the summer, they are left in containers until the contents are expelled and the juice is then dried for later use[46, 238]. The root contains an analgesic principle[240].


Other Uses
None known
Cultivation details
Prefers a moist well-drained soil in a sunny position[86, 200]. Grows best in a rich soil[1]. Another report says that it succeeds in poor soils[238]. The foliage is fairly frost-tender, though the roots are much hardier and plants can survive quite cold winters in Britain[86]. They are more likely to be killed by excessive winter wet[86]. The squirting cucumber is sometimes cultivated for its use as a medicinal plant[46]. The ripening fruit becomes pumped full of liquid, leading to an increase in pressure. As the seed becomes ripe, this pressure forces the fruit to break away explosively from the plant, ejecting its seed to a considerable distance in the opposite direction. The plant occasionally self-sows in our Cornwall trial ground[K] and can become a weed in warmer climates than Britain[K]. It is subject to statutory control as a weed in Australia[238].
Seed - sow early spring in rich compost in a greenhouse. Place 2 - 3 seeds per pot and thin to the strongest plant. The seed usually germinates in 10 - 21 days at 25°c[175]. Grow the plants on fast and plant them out after the last expected frosts.
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants


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Botanical References
Links / References
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Readers comment
   Thu Dec 30 07:19:47 2004
This plant is found in Malta/Mediterranean basin/Europe

More comprehensive details, medicinal properties, uses, botanical data, plant description and photogallery of high resolutions photos of this plant can be seen on an interesting website about the wild plants of Malta:

Link: Malta Wild Plants Website and photography by Stephen Mifsud, Malta

   Dec 1 2010 12:00AM
Juice of the fruit has been used as cure for Hepatitis. The fruit is squeezed in a clean cloth, and a drop of the juice inhaled through each nostril, twice to three times a day. The resulting EXCESSIVE amounts of yellow mucus discharge is normal and expected and jaundice subsides within 3-4 days and liver function restored. This is a very old treatment people have used in Southern Mediterranean. It is important NOT to exceed the amount of the juice used, as it is toxic in high doses.
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Subject : Ecballium elaterium  

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