*Cardiospermum h* invasive native?

Anne Kilmer viceroy at gate.net
Thu Jan 17 08:59:51 EST 2002

Chris J. Durden wrote:

> Checking in Martinez "Plantas Mexicanas" - our Balloon Vine, 
> *Cardiospermum halicacabum* L. has a Nahuatl name and several Mayan 
> names so it looks like it was in Mexico in pre-Columbian times. Where I 
> have seen it, it seems to be an early successional opportunist. I 
> strongly suspect that it is a native invasive weed. If it was not 
> originally native to Florida I suspect that it was brought there by 
> canoe. Mabberley notes that the leaves are used as a vegetable. Do any 
> birds, like Anis, spread the seeds?
> ............Chris Durden

If indeed the leaves are used as a vegetable (I wonder how toxic it is) 
they would be harvested when small and young. I would think such 
harvesting, if it included snipping ends of branches, would encouraging 
branching, flowering and fruiting. That would enhance the plant's 
appearance, as well as making it appeal to more butterflies.
However, assuming the plant "uses" toxicity to repel boarders, later 
harvests would be less tasty than the first ones,  and you might need to 
  change the cooking water.


Histoires et utilisations: (for C halicacabum l. var microcarpum, also 
known as Poc Poc)

La tisane de cette herbe est à situer parmi les remèdes des nourrissons. 
Une branche ou une poignée de feuilles mise à bouillir pendant 2 à 3 
minutes constituera la tisane à faire boire au bébé comme purgatif. Elle 
sera préconisée aussi dans le cas de maux de ventre, de petites 
diarrhées souvent liées aux poussées dentaires. Comme vermifuge, la 
Liane poc-poc est associée au Pêcher et à l'huile d'Olive. Contre les 
rhumatismes, les feuilles sont écrasées et appliquées sur la partie 
malade. A l'île Maurice, elles sont utilisées en fumigation contre le 
cathare nasal et en décoction contre la grippe et la toux, par voie 
orale. Aux Comores, le décocté de la plante entière est donné comme 
ocytocique par voie orale.

My French is not good, but I think, without more precise recipes, I 
would be cautious in the use of this as a vegetable. I think I would 
definitely simmer it and discard the water a couple of times unless I 
wished exciting results.
If I had this vine, though, I'd have a pounded pile of it on my cheek at 
this moment, and I imagine the neuralgia would be grateful.

I'm wondering whether the level of toxicity in the flowers is affected 
if you nibble away at the leaves. And is this good for the butterflies, 
or bad for the butterflies.

Hand colored copper engraving published in Curtis' Botanical Magazine, 

An excerpt from the original descriptive page which is included:  "It is 
not only found in the Eaft and Weft-Indies, but alfo near the mouth of 
the Rio de Janeiro in South-America, in the northern parts of 
New-Holland, in Otaheite, and fome other iflands in the South-Sea."

The lumpers and the splitters have been at this plant, as you see.

It's an ingredient in a body massage oil, along with my favorite vine, 
Momordica charantia (Balsam Vine) whose leaves can also be steamed and 
used as a vegetable.


Cardiospermum halicacabum
Blister Creeper

The leaf and root are irritant and are used for rubefacient purposes 
(Quisumbing 1951, Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk 1962, Behl et al. 1966).

Indeed. What a nice choice for a school garden. We had better at least 
caution folks not to roll around in it, I suppose ... Hmmm?

Tico Enthnobotanical dictionary (a very cool page, fun to wander through)
CARDIOSPERMUM HALICACABUM L. Balloonvine (E); Farolito (C) . The young 
foliage is used as a potherb. The seeds are tonic, febrifugal, and 

Here's a spot of stuff about other host plants:
CAESALPINIA CRISTA L. Nickernut (E); Seabean (E); Calentura (P); Mato 
(P) . The seeds, sometimes used in necklaces are considered febrifugal, 
periodic, tonic, and vesicant. they are used to treat colic, 
convulsions, hydrocele, leprosy, and palsy. The oil from the seeds is 
said to soften the skin and remove pimples. The bark is antiperiodic and 
rubefacient. the plant is used to counteract toothache. A leaf decoction 
is used a a collyrium. In Colombia the seeds are used to make maracas (!).

CAESALPINIA PULCHERRIMA Sw. Barbados pride (E); Bird of Paradise flower 
(E); Angelite (C); Flor de Pavo (C); Flower fence (E): Clavellina 
(C,CR); Gallito (P). Widely cultivated, the plant is purgative and is 
used for epilepsy.
(But does the Miami Blue actually use it? It is commonly grown, and 
could be used more; a fine little street tree. Barring a touch of 
political incorrectness.)

  So Chris, you can check out the palatability of this vine, one day 
when you have nothing much to do and can hog the bathroom. Just in case.
And thanks.
Schools won't let their kids taste weird stuff anyway. Heck, they might 
be sued.
Anne Kilmer
South Florida


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