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creeping cucumber, Melothria pentula

Q: I found this weed growing in the soil I had delivered for my fall garden. What is it?

Q:  I found this weed growing in the soil I had delivered for my fall garden.  It looks like tiny watermelons but the leaf looks like a cucumber.

A:   I have had three people bring this weed in to me within the last 2 weeks. I was fortunate in contacting the Duval County Commercial Extension Agent, Erin Harlow, and she was able to identify it for me immediately.  You most likely have the weed called creeping cucumber, Melothria pentula.  I found it interesting that most of the specimens of this weed  showed evidence of the disease powdery mildew on the leaves.

The leaf does indeed look like a cucumber and the speckled, melon-like fruit is about the size of a pecan.  Creeping cucumber also produces a small yellow flower similar to cucurbit flower. Some of the educational sources I consulted about this plant stated the fruit was not for human consumption although some wildlife may use it for food.

There are some indications creeping cucumber may harbor the watermelon mosaic virus (WMV) and papaya ringspot virus (PRSV). It would therefore be important to remove the weed whenever it is located around vegetable or fruit gardens.  If the weed had the virus, it can easily be transmitted to other plants by one of the piercing/sucking insects such as aphids or whiteflies. This is a good example of why it is important to keep gardens weed free.