Weekly Series
Nature Weekly
Short Notes on Nature Singapore

15 May 2016 | My Potted Climbers | Balloon Vine | Cardiospermum halicacabum |

In March, I brought back a dried capsule of Cardiospermum halicacabum, commonly known as Balloon Vine based on the inflated capsules that housed the seeds. Its other common name Heart Pea came about from the white heart-shaped scar on each black round seed. Though a capsule might contain up to 3 seeds, the one that I obtained had only two. Both seeds propagated uneventfully. To my surprise, the young plants started to flower within 6 weeks and even bear a nice little capsule. Soon, one of the young plant started to show sign of sickness with yellowing of the leaves. The causative agents were tiny little black dots at the underside of the leaves --- spider mites. Recently, these mites had wiped out the Pinkroot (Spigelia anthelmia) that I managed to grow. Thereafter, they migrated to the Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea) which tolerated them well. As the two Balloon Vine looked fragile, I had started to clear the mites routinely to save the plants. Hopefully, the only fruit on the Balloon Vine will eventually mature with seeds before the plant succumb to the mites’ attack.

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The fruit of the Balloon Vine reminded me of Bladder Cherry (Physalis minima) which also bears lantern-like capsule. The latter is an erected herb while the former is a climber. I tried growing Bladder Cherry in a pot once but was not successful. So far, Balloon Vine seemed to be a far easier plant to grow.

Besides the Balloon Vine, I had shared 3 other climbers from my pots in the post on 20 March, namely Macroptilium lathyroides (Phasey Bean), Clitoria ternatea (Butterfly Pea) and Centrosema molle (Centro). Of the 3, Butterfly Pea was a cultivated species while the other 2 were wild plants.

photo photo Another wild climber that was quietly taking up position was Threeleaf Cayratia (Cayratia trifolia). Three seedlings were growing undercover in the same pot as the Butterfly Pea. Though their seeds were in the pot much earlier than the Butterfly Pea, nothing seemed to happen and they were almost forgotten. Strangely, it started to grow after the Butterfly Pea had dominated the whole pot and surrounding window grills. The life span of Butterfly Pea is relatively short in a pot, less than a year. I expect the Threeleaf Cayratia to take over the territory when the pea plant is gone.

The other wild climber that was doing extremely well was the Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera). I had a large specimen that was producing many aerial tubers for which some were really big. I also had 2 climbing ferns, Lygodium microphyllum and Lygodium flexuosum. Both were not doing well due to encroachment of the Centrosema molle growing nearby.

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