Saturday, April 19, 2008

Another Native Cucumber

Red-striped Cucumber
Diplocyclos palmatus (Bryonopsis laciniosa)
This is a drought hardy, short-lived perennial plant of rainforest edges. It’s a light tendril-climber, but tends, in its native environment, to sprawl over low shrubby vegetation, and is particularly at home among the weeds of damaged rainforest edge environments. The stems grow to about 6m long, and the lightly hairy, deeply lobed leaves are very ornamental in a well watered specimens. I took this photo yesterday in an area of scrub at Gowrie Junction, where the leaves were showing signs of last week’s lack of water, but the plants were thriving.
If eaten they have a laxative effect, and are used medicinally in Africa and Asia (where they are also native). Plants with bright inedible fruits are often avoided as garden plants because of a concern that children might eat them and become ill. It seems unlikely, that a child would eat enough of this one to do any damage, as the fruits are very bitter-tasting. However there is an old record (White 1924, reported in Everist 1974), of the fruits being suspected of causing death in children. This should be enough to make us cautious about growing it anywhere that it could do harm.

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