Cucumber Weed

Scientific Name: Parietaria pensylvanica
Abundance: rare
What: leaves
How: raw, steamed
Where: shade, moist areas, yards
When: spring
Nutritional Value: potassium
Dangers: a small percentage of people are allergic to this plant and break out in hives if they eat it

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves/Stem - diuretic, in particular to help flush out kidney stones (tisane)

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate, with leaves spaced somewhat evenly along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Lanceolate to ovate, with a length typically ranging from 1 to 2.5 inches.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate, with a prominent midvein and several less prominent lateral veins branching off.

Leaf Margin: Entire, meaning the edges of the leaves are smooth without teeth or serrations.

Leaf Color: Bright green to yellow-green, often with a slightly paler underside.

Flower Structure: Small and inconspicuous, clustered in groups along the stem near the leaf axils (leaf-stem junction).

Flower Color: Green, blending with the foliage.

Fruit: Not commonly observed, but when present, are small, dry, and one-seeded.

Seeds: Tiny, with a hard outer coating.

Stem: Erect to ascending, typically ranging from 6 to 18 inches in height, with a green to reddish-green color.

Hairs: Covered with short, soft hairs, giving the plant a slightly fuzzy texture.

Height: Usually between 6 to 18 inches tall.

Young cucumber weed seedlings (November in Houston).

A lone, multi-stem Cucumber Weed hanging out next to a very old barn.
Cucumber Weed

Close-up of single stem. Note flowers are directly attached to stem and leaves "zig-zag" up it.
Cucumber Weed

Close-up of stem showing how flowers appear at the base of leaves.
Cucumber Weed

Close-up of Cucumber Weed flowers. Like the leaves, they are green and hairy.
Cucumber Weed

Close-up of mature leaf. It's edges are smooth, without any bumps/teeth.
Cucumber Weed Parietaria pensylvanica

Even closer close-up of leaf. Note the hairs, especially along the leaf's edge.
Cucumber Weed Parietaria pensylvanica

TOXIC MIMIC - Don't mistake members of the Acalypha genus for Cucumber Weed. They look similar in size, shape, and habitat but their actually easy to tell apart.

Acalypha leaves (picture below) lack hairs and have toothed edges unlike the smooth, hairy edge of Cucumber Weeds.

Texas distribution, attributed to U.S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While not listed by the USDA as found in Harris and Montgomery counties of Texas, I find it in those locations quite often.

"Cool as a cucumber" is a good way to remember when to hunt Cucumber Weed. These small, delicious weeds appear in the cooler days of late fall through early spring, usually in moist, shady areas that see a lot of human traffic and the resulting soil damage. The particularly seem to like growing along cement foundations of buildings which suggests to me they prefer somewhat alkaline soils. They'll often be intermingled with other edible and non-edible weeds.

Cucumber Weed leaves zig-zag up the stem, alternating from side to side but since the square stem twists as it grows the leaves end up in a spiral. Along the upper portion of the stem two hairy, green flowers grow at the base of each leaf. These flowers are attached directly to the stem on either side of the leaf.

Use this cucumber-flavored plant raw in salads or smoothies. Supposedly it's good steamed then mixed with pasta in a white sauce, having a much milder flavor than spinach.

A number of members of the Acalypha resemble Cucumber Weed. Remember, if the leaf has teeth/bumps along its edge and isn't hairy you have a toxic Acalypha and NOT an edible Cucumber Weed.

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