Marah fabaceus

Botanical Name : Marah fabaceus
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Marah
Species: M. fabaceus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Cucurbitales

Synonyms : Echinocystis fabacea – Naudin.

Common Names : California Manroot or Bigroot,Wild Cucumber,  Common Manroot

Habitat : Marah fabaceus is  native to California. Its range throughout the state subsumes nearly the entire ranges of all the other California native manroots species and intergrades. Hybrids between California manroot and the other species are common.Grows in banks and slopes below 750 metres in coastal strand and mixed evergreen forests

Description;
Marah fabaceus is a perennial Climber herb, growing to 6m.

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Foliage :Like other manroots, Marah fabaceus has stout, hairy stems with tendrils. Vines appear in late winter in response to increased rainfall, and can climb or scramble to a length of 6 meters. Its leaves typically have five lobes with individual plants showing wide variation in leaf size and lobe length.

Vines emerge from a large, hard tuberous root which can reach several meters in length and weigh in excess of 100 kilograms. Newly exposed tubers can be seen along roadcuts or eroded slopes and have a scaley, tan-colored surface. Injured or decaying tubers take on a golden or orange color.

Flower :It is in flower from July to September.The flower can vary in colour from yellowish green to cream to white. Flowers appear soon after the vine emerges. The flowers are monoecious, that is, individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant. Male flowers appear in open clusters while females flowers, distinguished by a swollen base, usually appear individually. The plant is self-fertile; pollen from the male flowers can fertilise the female flowers on the same plant. Pollination is by insects.

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Fruit :The fruit is spherical, 4 to 5 centimeters in diameter, and covered in prickles of variable density, up to 1 centimeter long but without hooks. Unripe fruit are bright green, ripening to yellow. The fruit swells as it ripens until finally rupturing and releasing the large seeds. Fruit begin to form in spring and ripen by early summer.

It is hardy to zone 8. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

Cultivation:
Requires a rich soil and abundant moisture. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. A climbing plant, supporting itself by means of tendrils.

Propagation:
Seed – sow early spring in pots of rich soil in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 1 – 2 weeks at 20°c. Put 2 or 3 seeds in each pot and thin to the best plant. Grow on fast and plant out after the last expected frosts.

Medicinal Uses:
Marah fabaceus is used to treat rheumatism and venereal disease.  Sometimes the raw root was rubbed directly over the ailing parts.  It was roasted, a paste made of its ashes, and applied in a plaster or a poultice to the patient’s flesh, there to remain until blisters formed as a certain sign that a cure was underway.

Other Uses:
Hair.

The crushed seeds, mixed with oil, have been rubbed on the hair to prevent baldness.

Known Hazards : The root is said to be poisonous to fish.  Whether or not it is toxic to mammals is not very clear.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marah_fabaceus
http://digedibles.com/database/plants.php?Marah+fabaceus
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm
http://www.coepark.org/wildflowers/white/marah-fabaceus.html

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