Along the Bike Path, Cornwall Canal, Cornwall, Ontario
The manroots, wild cucumbers, or cucumber gourd (genus Marah) are flowering plants in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae), native to western North America. They are also commonly called Old man in the ground. The genus name comes from Hebrew (mara, “bitter” – e.g. Ruth 1:20), and was given because all parts of these plants tend to have a bitter taste.
Except for the isolated range of the Gila Manroot (M. gilensis) in west-central Arizona and island populations (M. macrocarpus var. major), all manroot species inhabit overlapping ranges distributed from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico. Although Coastal Manroot (M. oreganus) extends inland into Idaho, all other manroot species except M. gilensis are confined to areas within 300km of the Pacific Ocean coast.
The manroots are perennial plants, growing from a large tuberous root. Most have stout, scabrous or hairy stems, with coiling tendrils that enable them to climb up other plants; they can also grow rapidly across level ground. Their leaves tend to have multiple lobes, up to 7 in some species. The fruits are striking and easily recognised. They are large, and spherical, oval or cylindrical. At a minimum they are 3 cm in diameter, but can be up to 20 cm long, and in many species they are covered in long spines. Both leaf and fruit shape vary widely between individual plants and leaves can be particularly variable even on the same vine.
The anthropomorphic common names “manroot” and “old man” derive from the swollen lobes and arm-like extensions of the unearthed tuber. On old plants, the tuber can be several meters long and weigh in excess of 100 kg.
Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 17 to 70 at 70 mm
Iso 100, multi pattern metering, f5.6, 1/125 second