New sport for restoration enthusiasts: Wild Cucumber throwing

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For Green Team students, staff and volunteers the summer months are filled with a very hard but EXTREMELY important task; maintaining our baby plantings from invasive weeds.

The team that knows this task the best is a group of youth we’ve been working with from the Clackamas County Community Connections program.  The team has been working hard at our Goat Island restoration project along the Clackamas River over the past few weeks.  This site contains a jungle of various invasives and the main plant we’ve been pulling is called Wild Cucumber aka Man Root.  Wild Cucumber is actually native to Oregon and California but grows like an out of control weed in a disturbed spot.  Once our native plantings have had the chance to go a bit taller than the Wild Cucumber can grow and live in harmony with the natives keeping it in check.  While pulling the Wild Cucumber we keep an eye out for its spiky fruit.  As a reward when we finish our work we throw our fruit findings against some doug firs – the seeds have not matured yet!

Youth also had a lot of fun sampling for macroinvertebrates in the Clackamas River.  We even found a few giant stoneflies: indicating that the Clackamas River has some water quality that can support these sensitive creatures.  Thank you Community Connections team!

Some fascinating information about Wild Cucumber from Wikipedia:

Marah oreganus was used by Native Americans for various problems. The Chinook made a poultice from the gourd. The Squaxin mashed the upper stalk in water to dip aching hands. The Chehalis burned the root and mixed the resulting powder with bear grease to apply to scrofula sores. The Coast Salish made a decoction to treat  kidney trouble and scrofula sores.

The dried  fruit can be soaked in water so that the spikes can be easily removed. They are difficult to remove otherwise. The hard fruit becomes soft in water and once the spikes are gone, the fruit makes a very efficient loofa.

Tubers of marah fabaceus were crushed and thrown into bodies of water by the Kumeyaay to immobilize fish. The tubers contain megharrhin, a saponin-like glucoside. Saponins lower the surface tension of water allowing the formation of bubbles. It is likely that the substance enters the fish’s circulation through the gill arches where only a single-cell epithelium separates the water from the animal’s red blood cells. The affected fish float to the surface.

Like many medicinal plants, at least some Marah species are toxic if ingested and deaths have been reported from ingesting them.

The tubers of M. fabaceus and M. macrocarpus contain saponins which can act as a natural soap

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