Why Do Cucumbers Have Spikes on Them?

One day as you’re tending to your garden, you notice one of your cucumbers has spikes. You may wonder why on earth the cucumber has spikes. Is this normal, or is it better to remove it?

Cucumbers have spikes on them if they are wild cucumber and bur cucumber variants. These common cucurbit variants can spread and quickly overtake your garden, so it is best to remove these cucumber plants. Remove them by pulling out young plants or dispose of the cucumbers before they ripen.  

This article gives you an overview of why cucumbers in your garden have spikes on them. It also covers whether these cucumbers are edible and whether you should allow them to grow.

Why Are My Cucumbers Prickly?

It can be somewhat strange to see cucumbers with spikes growing in your garden. If you’ve ever bought cucumbers from a store, you’ll notice their skins are smooth.

So what gives? Why do the ones you have look different? If you notice spikes on your cucumbers, they are likely the wild variants

Wild cucumbers, known as Echinocystis Lobata, produce fruit that has spines on the outer body. 

How To Identify Wild Cucumbers

If you were to look at wild cucumbers and regular-looking cucumber plants, it could be challenging to differentiate the two before they produce fruit. Here’s a simple guide to identifying a wild cucumber from a regular cucumber plant in your garden.


An easy way to know whether you have a wild cucumber is to look at its leaves. The shape of a wild cucumber’s leaves typically resembles that of a maple leaf. On the other hand, the leaves are broader if you’re looking at a regular cucumber plant. 


The wild cucumber will start producing flowers if you allow it to grow. They are monoecious, which means a single plant will have both male and female flowers

The first giveaway is the color of the flowers. Wild cucumber flowers have a pale-white and yellowish hue to them. However, regular cucumber plants produce flowers that are yellow in color.

The shape of the male flowers is different for wild cucumbers. It has six thin petals, whereas the ones on the regular cucumber plant have five broader petals.  

Aside from the flowers, a dead giveaway for wild cucumber plants is when it starts producing fruit, as standard cucumbers often don’t produce fruit


Wild cucumbers are typically smaller than regular cucumbers. They also tend to have an oval shape and are covered with tiny spikes. Regular cucumbers are cylindrical and long, while the outer skin usually looks smooth or slightly bumpy – but never spiky. 

Can You Eat Cucumbers With Spikes?

Now that you know how to identify wild cucumbers, you might wonder if you can eat them. Well, you should avoid consuming wild cucumbers. This is because you may experience a burning sensation after eating them. However, you can use the roots of your wild cucumber to make a healthy tea!

What Should You Do With Wild Cucumbers?

There is a high chance of wild cucumbers growing in your garden if you live near woodland edges and rural areas. Finding one in your backyard might make you wonder whether you should let it be or take it down.

Yet, it depends on whether you mind vines that grow aggressively. This can work if you want to cover a part of your landscape with quick-growing vines. For example, walls and fences are excellent structures for growing these plants. 

However, it is also considered a weed and can rapidly overtake your garden. This means it will compete for resources with other plants in the vicinity, potentially affecting their growth.

Should You Remove Wild Cucumbers?

As highlighted earlier, wild cucumbers exhibit aggressive growth. Initially, you may only have a handful of vines. If you allow it to flower and let the fruits mature, you’ll have several plants in your garden by the next season.

This is due to how wild cucumbers spread their seeds, which is an interesting phenomenon. The fruit, when raw, is green. As it matures, its color changes to brown. The fruit will also start to lose moisture and become dry. 

At this stage, things get interesting. Inside the fruit are four seeds, which the plant needs to disperse. When the fruit is dry, it gets shot out of the pod.

Here’s a YouTube video that examines how wild cucumbers spread their seeds. It contains close-up footage in slow motion, which is stunning to watch: 

Considering these plants produce seeds by themselves, you can imagine how quickly they will spread throughout your garden. 

How To Remove Wild Cucumbers

To avoid an infestation of wild cucumbers, you should remove them from your garden as soon as possible. You can control the spread effectively if you don’t allow the fruits to mature and dry out. Here’s how you can do it at different stages of growth.

Young Wild Cucumbers

You’re in luck if the wild cucumbers have yet to produce any flowers. The best way to curb the growth is to remove the vines directly from the ground. You can pull out the plants with your hands. However, you should be careful if flora is next to the wild cucumber. Since it is a vine, it will use the surrounding plants and structures for support. 

Ensure you unwind the tendrils from their support structures before pulling the plant out. Remember that the longer you wait, the stronger the tendrils become. If you want to learn about how cucumber tendrils work and why they’re essential, check out this article: Why Do Your Cucumber Plants Have Tendrils?

You can also remove them with a garden hoe.

Flowering Wild Cucumbers

You don’t have to worry if the wild cucumbers in your garden are already flowering, as you can still remove them. However, this might be more challenging as the tendrils at this stage will have a firm grip on the neighboring plants and support structures. 

Fruiting Wild Cucumbers

You still have time as long as the fruits haven’t started flowering, i.e., turning dry and brown. Remove all fruit from the plant, reducing the number of new wild cucumbers that grow significantly next season. Even if you’ve missed out on a few fruits as you only noticed the plant at the fruiting stage, you’ll still bring down their population. 

At the start of the next growing season, keep a close eye on new wild cucumbers and remove them as soon as you identify them.  

Can You Use Foliar Herbicides?

Foliar herbicides help control the growth of unwanted plants. However, you should avoid using them because wild cucumbers are vines. Since they rely on surrounding flora for growth, foliar herbicides can affect them.

Stick to hand pulling or using a garden hoe to remove wild cucumbers. 

Are There Other Cucumbers With Spikes?

Another cucumber plant that produces fruit with spikes is the bur cucumber. Here’s how you can identify one in your garden.


Generally, the fruit is much smaller than wild cucumbers and regular cucumbers. Bur cucumbers are typically covered in spikes. They’re also a particularly hairy variety of cucumber.

Avoid handling the fruit without proper protection, as the spikes break easily. 


Another way to identify a bur cucumber is to look at its leaves. The top portion of the leaf will bear the shape of a heart or maple leaf. If you examine the underside of the leaves, you’ll notice it is covered with soft hair. They also typically have three lobes.


Unlike wild cucumbers, bur cucumbers have greenish-white flowers. Female flowers have a bell-like shape without stalks, while male counterparts have pointed petals with green veins.

Like wild cucumbers, bur cucumbers also grow and spread rapidly. Remove them using the same techniques as you would for wild cucumbers if you don’t want them in your garden. 

Are Bur Cucumbers Edible?

You can eat the leaves of the bur cucumber, especially when the plant is young. However, you’ll need to cook it before consumption. 

The fruit is also edible, but you should wear appropriate protection before removing them from the plant because the spikes may get stuck on your skin. 

Final Thoughts

If you notice cucumbers with spikes, check whether they are wild or bur cucumbers. After you identify them, determine whether you want them in your garden. If you find them invasive, remove them by pulling them out with your hands or using a garden hoe. You can also pluck all the fruits before it matures.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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