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Squirting cucumber
Ecballium elaterium1.jpg
A fruit of the squirting cucumber
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Subfamily: Cucurbitoideae
Tribe: Bryonieae
Genus: Ecballium
Species: E. elaterium
Binomial name
Ecballium elaterium
(L.) A.Rich.[1]

Elaterium Mill.

Ecballium is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cucurbitaceae containing a single species, Ecballium elaterium,[1] also called the squirting cucumber or exploding cucumber (but not to be confused with Cyclanthera explodens). It gets its unusual name from the fact that, when ripe, it squirts a stream of mucilaginous liquid containing its seeds, which can be seen with the naked eye. It is thus considered to have rapid plant movement.

It is native to Europe, northern Africa, and temperate areas of Asia.[2] It is grown as an ornamental plant elsewhere, and in some places it has naturalized.[2][3]

It is suspected to provide food for the caterpillars of the tortrix moth Phtheochroa rugosana.

This plant, and especially its fruit, is poisonous, containing cucurbitacins.[4] In the ancient world it was considered to be an abortifacient.[5]

Elaterium or elaterin is the name of the greenish substance extracted from the juice of the fruit that is used as a purgative.

Ecballium elaterium


  1. ^ a b c "Search results for Ecballium". The Plant List. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. 
  3. ^ "Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich.". USDA PLANTS. 
  4. ^ Attard, E. G.; Scicluna-Spiteri, A (2001). "Ecballium elaterium: An in vitro source of cucurbitacins". Fitoterapia. 72 (1): 46–53. doi:10.1016/s0367-326x(00)00256-2. PMID 11163940. 
  5. ^ Pliny Naturalis historia, Book XX, 4

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