Balloon Vine

Scientific Name(s): Cardiospermum corindum
Abundance: invasive
What: young leaves; vine tips
How: cooked
Where: fields, borders, dry, moist
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: minor
Dangers: none

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves of Cardiospermum corindum are arranged alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are compound, usually with three leaflets, each leaflet being broadly ovate to heart-shaped, measuring approximately 1 to 3 inches in width.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate venation, with veins running from the base to the tip of each leaflet.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margin is typically serrated or toothed.

Leaf Color: The leaves are green.

Flower Structure: The flowers are approximately 1/4" across, with four petals, and occur in clusters.

Flower Color: Flowers are typically greenish-white.

Fruit: The fruit is a distinctive, papery capsule with three inflated chambers, resembling balloons.

Seed: Inside each inflated capsule are small, black seeds with a white band running partway around the seed. 

Stem: The stem is typically climbing or trailing, and it may have fine hairs.

Hairs: Appears hairless or extremely fine hairs.

Height: Cardiospermum corindum can climb to significant heights but is often seen trailing along the ground or climbing on other vegetation.

Ballon vine plant in the fall.

Balloon Vine flower. They can keep producing flowers while the temperatures are still warm.

Balloon vine leaf.

Balloon vine leaf and green seed pod "balloon". Seed pod/seeds are NOT edible.

Dried balloon vines seed pods.

Balloon vine seeds.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Balloon Vine on the left, Ground Cherry on the right.

Across fields and disturbed areas of Texas and the South, Balloon Vines are taking hold. Keep an eye out in sunny fields, especially along ditches and other areas where water may collect. Balloon vines are easily spotted by their small, puffy, pointed seed pods. These pods are mostly air with the fruit located in the center. If the weather stays warm these vines can produce these balloon-like seed pods all year long so you may see white flowers, young, green pods, and dried, brown pods all on the same vine.

Balloon vines are an invasive species from Asia and can quickly cover and kill native plants. This makes a good argument for eating them! The edible parts are its young leaves and vine tips. These are cooked before eating, though to be honest I don't know why. That's how they do it in Asian countries, which is a good enough reason for me.

The puffy seed pods are not eaten, nor are the seeds contained in these "balloons". However, both the leaves and seeds were used medically in India and Asia, along with the roots. Leaf poultices were used on skin wounds and infections as well as minor muscle and joint problems like strains, sprains and arthritis. Tea made from the leaves was traditionally used against stress and bronchitis. Tea from the root was applied topically to treat hemorrhoids. The seeds were crushed for a tea given to relieve fevers and joint pain.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

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