This perennial wildflower is 1-2½' 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 central stem is medium green, terete, and
woolly-pubescent to glabrous; it becomes more glabrous with age. In a
flowering plant, the lower whorl of leaves occurs near the
middle of the central stem; this whorl has 5-10 leaves that are 2½-5"
long and ½-2" across. The upper whorl of leaves occurs underneath the
inflorescence; this whorl has 3-5 leaves that are 2-4" long and ½-2"
across. All of these leaves are elliptic to ovate in shape,
smooth along their margins, and sessile. The
upper leaf surface is medium green and glabrous, while the lower
surface is pale green. Individual leaves have 3-5 parallel primary
veins and a fine network of secondary veins.
inflorescence consists of a sessile umbel of 3-9 flowers on pedicels
about 1" long. These flowers are held either a little above
or below the leaves when they
are in bloom. Individual flowers are about 2/3" (16 mm.) across,
consisting of 6 yellowish green tepals, 6 stamens, a 3-celled ovary,
and 3 reddish purple to brown stigmata. The tepals are lanceolate in
shape and recurved. The stigmata are large in size and recurved,
spanning the width of each flower. The
pedicels are light green and glabrous. The blooming
period occurs from late spring to early summer, lasting about 1 month.
Afterwards, the pedicels become more erect, holding the developing
berries above the upper whorl of leaves. At maturity, these berries are
dark purple, globoid, and about 1/4" to 1/3" (6-8 mm.) across.
Each berry contains several seeds. The root system consists of a thick
rhizome with fibrous roots. Small colonies of plants can develop from
The preference is dappled sunlight to medium shade, moist
conditions, and soil containing loam or sandy loam with decaying
Range & Habitat:
The native Indian
Cucumber-Root is located in two counties of NE Illinois, where it is
rare and state-listed as 'endangered' (see Distribution
Illinois lies along the western
range-limit of this species. Habitats consist of rich mesic woodlands,
edges of swamps, forested bogs, and at the bases of wooded dunes. In
mesic areas, this wildflower is typically located in beech-maple
woodlands, while in more swampy areas it is found near Red Maple, Black
Ash, and other deciduous trees that prefer moist areas.
is known about floral-faunal relationships for this species. Sometimes,
such small rodents as the White-Footed Mouse and Woodland Deer Mouse
eat the seeds and berries (Hamilton, 1941).
The base of a wooded sand dune near the edge of
a swamp at
the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in NW Indiana.
The common name refers to the flavor of the rhizome, which is said
to resemble the flavor of cucumbers. Because of the oversized stigmata,
the flowers of Indian Cucumber-Root have an odd appearance.
Non-flowering plants with a single whorl of leaves superficially
resemble an orchid, Isotria
(Large Whorled Pogonia).
However, this orchid has been found only in southern Illinois, where
Indian Cucumber-Root does not occur. In areas where their ranges
overlap outside of the state, these two species can be distinguished by
the differing patterns of their secondary veins.