Medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber Home - Plant Profiles & Photos

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Medeola virginiana, indian cucumber, is a native perennial herbaceous plant. It blooms in spring. It is 1-3' tall, consisting of an erect unbranched stem and 1-2 whorls of leaves. Plants without flowers produce only a single whorl of leaves, while flowering plants produce 2 whorls of leaves.


The Indian cucumber flowers emerge from the top whorl of leaves. The buds start above the top leaf whorl, but as they open, they usually form a drooping cluster of 3-9 nodding flowers a little below the upper leaf whorl.

The flowers stalks (pedicels) are about 1" long. The nodding flowers are about 2/3" across with 6 yellowish green recurved tepals, 6 stamens, and a 3 pronged reddish purple to brown stigma. The plant is in the lily family which has flower parts in multiples of 3. The stigmas are prominent and recurved and are as wide or wider than the width of each flower.
Medeola virginiana- Indian cucumber - flower - close up Medeola virginiana- Indian cucumber -  flower - back view Medeola virginiana- Indian cucumber - cluster of flowers under upper whorl of leaves Medeola virginiana- Indian cucumber -  flower  - close up

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After blooming, the pedicels become more erect, holding the developing berries above the upper whorl of leaves. At maturity, these berries are dark purple about 1/4" to 1/3" across. When the berries are mature, the whorl of leaves below them turn redish close to the stem.
medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber - fruit medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber - mature fruit

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Plant, Leaves & Habitat

In a flowering plant, the upper whorl has 3-5 leaves that are up to 4" long and the lower whorl of leaves occurs near the middle of the central stem and has 5-10 leaves that are up to 5" long. Individual leaves are sessile and have 3-5 parallel primary veins as is common in the monocots such as the lilies.

The root system consists of a thick rhizome (horizontal underground stem) with fibrous roots. Small colonies of plants can develop from the rhizomes.

Indian cucumber grows in shade or partial shade of moist woodlands and is very slow growing.  In NJ, the indian cucumber is not common. Please be careful not to destroy them.

medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber - plants - 1 & 2 whorls of leaves - habitat medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber - Plant with two layers of leaves medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber - Plant with single layer of leaves

All photos by H & M Ling, Baldpate Mt., Tillman's Ravine, flowers May 2019; fruit August 2014.

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Additional information

Additional information / references:


Distribution: Distribution and legal status: endangered in 2 states

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