In September Simon attended the 'open house' at the Pôterne, Preuilly's museum. He spent some time chatting on the terrace to our insurance agent, a lovely smiley lady called Marie-Hélène, who is very involved in the Comité des Fêtes and the Historical Society. She introduced him to another member of the Society as the person who had brought the exciting newly discovered Petit watercolours of Preuilly to their attention and they shook hands warmly. Chatting continued, and somehow the conversation turned to the plant at their feet that is clearly in danger of over-running the terrace.
Ecballium elaterium or Squirting Cucumber as it is usually known in English is a perennial, native to Southern Europe, appearing wherever there is sandy, stony or waste ground. The plant is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, so is genuinely a cucumber. The fruits are poisonous and were used medicinally in the past (as so often with poisonous plants, the right dose is actually beneficial, but it needs administering with a skilled and knowledgeable hand – something that is largely lost to us now). Apparently, the fruit is so strong a purgative that just absorbing the liquid from the seed capsule through the skin can have an effect. The liquid is also extremely irritating to the skin.
Because of its very effective seed distribution system, it can very easily take over an area like the terrace at the museum, and consequently, every now and then, brave souls covered from head to toe in protective gear get in there and remove as much as they can to keep it under control.
I see from looking it up on t'internet that it is usually called Concombre d'âne (literally 'donkey's cucumber' i.e. presumably meaning 'fool's cucumber') in French.
A rather stylish sauterelle, taken in the grounds of the Maison de retraite a couple of weeks earlier than the cucurbit encounter.