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Medeola virginiana

Indian cucumber root

Plant Details

Common Name: Indian cucumber root
Family: Liliaceae (lily family)
Mature Height: 6" - 2'
Sun Requirement: Part shade to shade
Moisture Requirement: Dry - medium, Medium - moist
Flower Color: Yellow, Green
Bloom Time: Spring (May or earlier), Early summer (June - July)
Seed Collection Date: Mid summer (July - August)

Medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber root
Medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber root
Medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber root
Medeola virginiana - Indian cucumber root

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Medeola is Greek, honoring the sorceress Medea; Virginiana is Latin for Virginia.

Native Habitat

Mesic open woodlands.

Garden Uses

Perfect for shady woodland or rain gardens, this interesting plant spreads slowly to naturalize with 3 season interest.


An open woodland native of the eastern US, this 1-2 foot tall perennial herb prefers moist part-shade to shade. Each graceful nodding stem bears an interesting, small yellow-green flower above whorled leaves, but it was traditionally valued for its thick (1 inch diameter), brittle, juicy root, similar in texture and fragrance to a cucumber. Because of its current scarcity, digging it as a food crop is not recommended.

Leaves and Stems

Leaves form as two separate whorls, a larger whorl of 5-9, 5-inch lanceolate to ovate leaves at mid-stem, with a smaller whorl (3, three-inch leaves) above. In autumn, leaves turn reddish purple, contrasting nicely with the bluish fruit. Each single stem is hairy and unbranched as it rises from its rhizome. Non-flowering plants have one whorl and can be confused with star flower (Lysimachia borealis).


The greenish-yellow, 6-part flowers (1/2 inch diameter) appear in late spring, drooping from the terminal axil of the top whorl. The petal-like tepals turn backward.


The small berry ripens to bluish-purple.

Animal Associates

Birds are attracted to the fruit.


Divide in spring as the plant comes into growth or sow the seeds as soon as they are ripe in the autumn.

Ethnobotanical Uses

The root tastes and smells somewhat like a cucumber.

Anecdotal Information

This plant may be best appreciated in the wild or propagated by seed.


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 

Minnesota Wildflowers 

Missouri Botanical Garden

Wisconsin Herbarium Consortium, Flora of Wisconsin

Plants for a Future

Plant Profile by Kate O’Dell