P80224KWhat is it?!?

Is it alive?

Was it alive?

Is it moving?

Should we roll it back into the river?

Can we eat it? Someone actually asked that.

It really is as big and ugly as it looks. That is a size 11 boot next to it to demonstrate how big it is. We can not eat it. There is no need to put it back into the river. It is not moving. It was alive, and still is. It is the distended tuberous root of a wild cucumber, of the genus Marah, which is also known as ‘manroot’ because of how big it can get. That stub protruding from the top (toward the top of the picture) is the remnant of a stem. A few thin roots protrude from the lower half, with thicker root stubs at the bottom.

This picture was taken last winter after the San Lorenzo River flooded and then receded. There has not been enough rain this year to wash more than leaves and a few pinecones downriver.

If this tuberous root had not been unearthed and scoured clean by floodwater, it would have been actively growing through winter. The surprisingly thin and wiry vines appear in autumn and climb with tendrils over shrubbery and small trees. The palmately lobed leaves are rather fragile, and tear easily. Loose clusters of small pale white flowers are followed by weirdly spiny round fruit that ripens from light green to greenish yellow. Each fruit is about the size of a golf ball, and contains a few big seeds. As the weather gets warm in summer, the vines die completely to the ground, leaving the drying fruit dangling from whatever the vines grew onto earlier.

Why can’t the river bring us something useful?


39 thoughts on “Look What The River Washed In!

    1. Oh my! I neglected to mention that the fruit is not edible either. The succulent hull just under the prickly exterior has the crunch of a cucumber, but it is filled with a few big hard seeds.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We have lots of them growing wild in south OC — but I’d never seen them before I lived here! They always looked too prickly to be tasty — now I’m glad I didn’t even try them! Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. If it eats others, than possibly not. If it sits there and appears to be a root, then it may be a vegetable. If you take it home and it never eats you, then maybe it is not an animal or monster. I am unsure what else to advise–

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, technically, investigators were unable to determine if the robbery at Bank of America was related. No one saw the getaway car, and there were no fingerprints; just smudges that resembled grass stains.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! That is is funny! I did not think of that. I was trying to think of crazy things to tell people about it, like it was full of spider eggs or something. I even though about leaving it in an odd place, just to make people wonder. When I grew citrus, we sometimes got huge shaddock fruit that looked like ten pound lemons. I had friends who would leave them in strange places to see how people reacted to them. Sometimes, they were just left sitting on a bench in the plaza. Sometimes, they would be in an elevator in the Bank of America Building. Sometimes, they would just show up in the middle of the sidewalk downtown, first thing in the morning. People would just walk around it and stare at it.


    1. You know, they actually look somewhat similar. Instead of thick soft horns, the fruit is outfitted with prickly bristles. There are only a few seeds, and they are quite hard. There is almost no pulp around the seeds. The fruit is inedible.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. African cucumbers are available in our local supermarket. I do not remember what fancy name they have been given. I think that some types can be used like bitter melon in Chinese cuisine.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Reblogged this on Tony Tomeo and commented:

    As excellent as the weather has been, it is difficult to imagine that the San Lorenzo River was so high at about this time three years ago when this article posted.


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