Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Cardiospermum grandiflorum
(balloon vine)



Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cardiospermum grandiflorum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • balloon vine
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The balloon vine C. grandiflorum has been introduced around the world mainly as an orna...

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Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); habit with pods and flowers. Mount Ommaney, Brisbane, Queensland. January 2012.
CaptionCardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); habit with pods and flowers. Mount Ommaney, Brisbane, Queensland. January 2012.
Copyright©Tatters/Tatiana Gerus-2012/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); habit with pods and flowers. Mount Ommaney, Brisbane, Queensland. January 2012.
HabitCardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); habit with pods and flowers. Mount Ommaney, Brisbane, Queensland. January 2012.©Tatters/Tatiana Gerus-2012/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); close-up of flowers. Timbavati Picnic Site, S40 Road West of Satara, Kruger NP, South Africa. February 2014.
CaptionCardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); close-up of flowers. Timbavati Picnic Site, S40 Road West of Satara, Kruger NP, South Africa. February 2014.
Copyright©Bernard Dupont/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.0
Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); close-up of flowers. Timbavati Picnic Site, S40 Road West of Satara, Kruger NP, South Africa. February 2014.
FlowersCardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); close-up of flowers. Timbavati Picnic Site, S40 Road West of Satara, Kruger NP, South Africa. February 2014.©Bernard Dupont/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.0
Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); fruits, on fence of banana plantation. Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands. February 2016.
CaptionCardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); fruits, on fence of banana plantation. Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands. February 2016.
Copyright©Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 4.0
Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); fruits, on fence of banana plantation. Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands. February 2016.
FruitsCardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); fruits, on fence of banana plantation. Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands. February 2016.©Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 4.0
Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); mature fruits. Canary Islands. October 2009.
TitleMature fruits
CaptionCardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); mature fruits. Canary Islands. October 2009.
Copyright©Bernd Sauerwein-2009/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); mature fruits. Canary Islands. October 2009.
Mature fruitsCardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine); mature fruits. Canary Islands. October 2009.©Bernd Sauerwein-2009/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cardiospermum grandiflorum Sw.

Preferred Common Name

  • balloon vine

Other Scientific Names

  • Cardiospermum barbicaule Baker
  • Cardiospermum coluteoides Kunth
  • Cardiospermum duarteanum Cambess.
  • Cardiospermum elegans Kunth
  • Cardiospermum grandiflorum f. elegans (Kunth) Radlk.
  • Cardiospermum grandiflorum f. hirsutum (Willd.) Radlk.
  • Cardiospermum grandiflorum var. hirsutum Hiern
  • Cardiospermum hirsutum Willd.
  • Cardiospermum hispidum Kunth
  • Cardiospermum inflatum Vell.
  • Cardiospermum macrophyllum Kunth
  • Cardiospermum pilosum Vell.
  • Cardiospermum velutinum Hook. & Arn.
  • Cardiospermum vesicarum Humb.

International Common Names

  • English: balloonvine; heart seed vine; heartseed; showy balloon vine
  • Spanish: amor en bolsa; farolillo; globillo; tronadora
  • Portuguese: balãozinho; cipó-timbó-miudo

Local Common Names

  • Australia: large balloon creeper
  • Cook Islands: kopupu takaviri
  • Jamaica: heart pea; wild supple jack
  • South Africa: blaasklimop; heart seed; intandela; opblaasboontjie; uzipho

Summary of Invasiveness

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The balloon vine C. grandiflorum has been introduced around the world mainly as an ornamental plant. It has escaped from cultivation and become naturalized and invasive mostly in wet and humid habitats. Once established, it grows rapidly into the tops of trees, forms a thick curtain of stems, excluding light, and harbours pests and diseases. Weight contributes to canopy collapse and ecosystem destruction. C. grandiflorum is a declared noxious weed in Australia and South Africa, is reported as invasive in many other countries, and is likely to spread. In Australia, it has notable environmental impacts, especially by its invasion of remnant areas of rainforest. Control has proved difficult. In Europe, it was added to the EPPO Alert List in 2012 and transferred to the List of Invasive Alien Plants in 2013.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Sapindales
  •                         Family: Sapindaceae
  •                             Genus: Cardiospermum
  •                                 Species: Cardiospermum grandiflorum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Cardiospermum is a small genus (ca. 17 species) of mostly herbaceous, tendrilled vines or sometimes erect shrubs or subshrubs (Ferrucci, 2000; Acevedo-Rodriguez et al., 2011). Cardiospermum, along with several genera of vines, belongs in the tribe Paullinieae of the Sapindaceae. The Sapindaceae is a medium sized family with about 140 genera and 1900 species, most of which are distributed throughout the tropics; some genera are abundant in the sub-temperate zones. The Sapindaceae as currently understood includes the members of Aceraceae and Hippocastanaceae as subfamilies. Members of the family are mostly trees or shrubs with a large percentage of climbers in the Neotropics.

Recent DNA studies suggest Cardiospermum to a be morphological group of not directly related species. A revision of the genus may show it to contain fewer species than currently recognized (Acevedo-Rodriguez et al., unpublished data). Most Cardiospermum species are restricted to the Neotropics, from Mexico to Argentina, including the West Indies. Of these, three are also found in the Paleotropics, two of which are also considered native to the Old World.

A large number of synonyms of C. grandiflorum reflects the confusion regarding the limits to the species in the past, with populations in Africa and the Americas recognized as synonyms of a large but variable species (Ferrucci, 2000; USDA-ARS, 2015). The genus name Cardiospermum comes from the Greek kardia (heart) and sperma (seed), referring to the heart-shaped white spot round the hilum on the seeds of some species. The species epithet grandiflorum means large-flowered. The common name balloon vine is a reference to the balloon-like fruit of the species.


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Perennial, climbing, woody vine with numerous lateral branches that climbs by means of tendrils and attains 5-8 m in length. Stems almost cylindrical, striate, glabrous; cross section with a single vascular cylinder. Leaves alternate, biternate; leaflets chartaceous, glabrous except for some hairs on the veins, the margins deeply serrate; terminal leaflet rhombic, 4.5-8 × 2-4 cm, the apex acute or acuminate, the base cuneate or attenuate; lateral leaflets oblong-lanceolate, 2.7-7 × 1.3-3cm, the apex acute or acuminate, the base obtuse or attenuate; rachis and petiole not winged, canaliculate; petioles 1-5 cm long; stipules minute, early deciduous; tendrils in pairs, spirally twisted, at the end of short axillary axes (aborted inflorescences), from which an inflorescence usually develops. Flowers functionally unisexual, zygomorphic, in axillary racemiform thyrses; cincinni more than 4, usually in more than one whorl. Calyx light green, of 4 sepals, the two outer ones ca. 1.7-3 mm long, the inner ones ca. 5-8mm long; petals white, obovate, 6-9 mm long; petaliferous appendages slightly shorter than the petals, fleshy and yellow at the apex, forming a hood that encloses the apex of the glands of the disc; disc unilateral, with 2 elongate glands, corniform, whitish, 1.2-2 mm long; stamens 8, the filaments unequal, glabrous or pubescent; ovary ovoid or ellipsoid, villous, with one style and 3 stigmas. Capsule membranaceous, inflated, ellipsoid or ovoid, 3-5.5 cm long, stramineous when ripe. Seed one per locule, spherical, black,4-5.5 mm in diameter, with a white, obtuse triangular hilum (Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005).

Plant Type

Top of page Biennial
Seed propagated
Vine / climber


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The very broad native range covering much of Africa and the Americas as reported in USDA-ARS (2015) and Wagner et al. (1999) reflects the taxonomic confusion that has surrounded the species. However, USDA-ARS (2015) also questions whether C. grandiflorum is native to Africa, suggesting that revision may be possible. Furthermore, others (e.g. Carroll et al., 2005) consider that the species is only native to the Americas, and that native populations in Africa belong to other species – a conclusion which is accepted for the purposes of this datasheet. This is supported by the review of Gildenhuys et al. (2013), which notes a native range restricted to the Americas, but states that the native status of populations in West Africa are as yet unconfirmed, though those in South Africa and Australia are introduced and invasive. Gildenhuys et al. (2015) further confirm the invasive status in southern Africa and Australia and suggest that its status (native or invasive) should be reviewed in other regions outside South America.

C. grandiflorum is frequent on the eastern coast of Australia in New South Wales and Queensland with isolated occurrences in Western Australia (near Perth) and South Australia (AVH, 2014). It is also introduced and invasive in some Pacific islands, notable in the Cook Islands, Hawaii and French Polynesia. EPPO (2014) record it as present in Sicily, the Canary Islands and Madeira.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


Sri LankaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2014


AngolaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
BeninPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
BotswanaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
BurundiPresentIntroducedWitt and Luke, 2017Naturalized
CameroonPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
Central African RepublicPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
CongoPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentEPPO, 2014
Côte d'IvoirePresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
GhanaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
GuineaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014; BioNET-EAFRINET, 2015Noxious weed
LiberiaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
MalawiPresentIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015; Witt and Luke, 2017
NamibiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Bethune et al., 2004; EPPO, 2014
NigeriaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
Sierra LeonePresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
South AfricaPresentFoxcroft et al., 2008; EPPO, 2014
-Canary IslandsPresentEPPO, 2014; DAISIE, 2015
SudanPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
SwazilandPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014; BioNET-EAFRINET, 2015Noxious weed
TogoPresentEPPO, 2014
UgandaPresentIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014; BioNET-EAFRINET, 2015Noxious weed
ZambiaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
ZimbabwePresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015

North America

MexicoPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
USAPresentDatamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases; EPPO, 2014
-CaliforniaLocalisedIntroducedGildenhuys et al., 2013
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014; PIER, 2015O’ahu

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
Costa RicaPresentEPPO, 2014; PIER, 2015
El SalvadorPresentEPPO, 2014; PIER, 2015
GuatemalaPresentEPPO, 2014
HondurasPresentEPPO, 2014; PIER, 2015
JamaicaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
NicaraguaPresentEPPO, 2014; PIER, 2015
PanamaPresentEPPO, 2014; PIER, 2015
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedRojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2015Potentially invasive
United States Virgin IslandsPresentAcevedo-Rodríguez, 2005St. Croix, St. Thomas

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeEPPO, 2014; Flora del Conosur, 2015Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Misiones, Tucumán
BoliviaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
BrazilPresentEPPO, 2014
-AmazonasPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-Espirito SantoPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-GoiasPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-MaranhaoPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-Minas GeraisPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-ParaPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-ParanaPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-Rio de JaneiroPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-Rio Grande do NortePresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-Rio Grande do SulPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-RondoniaPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-Santa CatarinaPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
-Sao PauloPresentNativeSomner et al., 2015
ColombiaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2014
EcuadorPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
GuyanaPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
ParaguayPresentNativeEPPO, 2014; Flora del Conosur, 2015Alto Paraná, Alto Paraguay, Amambay, Caaguazú, Caazapá, Canindeyú, Central, Concepción, Cordillera, Guairá, Itapúa, Ñeembucú, Paraguarí, SanPedro
PeruPresentEPPO, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2015
UruguayPresentNativeEPPO, 2014; Flora del Conosur, 2015Canelones, Colonia, Soriano
VenezuelaPresentEPPO, 2014


BelgiumAbsent, no pest recordEPPO, 2014
FrancePresent, few occurrencesEPPO, 2014; DAISIE, 2015
ItalyPresentEPPO, 2014
-SicilyPresentEPPO, 2014; DAISIE, 2015
MaltaPresent, few occurrencesEPPO, 2014
PortugalPresentEPPO, 2014
-MadeiraPresentEPPO, 2014; DAISIE, 2015
SpainPresentEPPO, 2014


AustraliaPresentEPPO, 2014
-New South WalesPresentEPPO, 2014; AVH, 2015
-QueenslandPresentEPPO, 2014
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedAVH, 2015
-Western AustraliaLocalisedIntroducedAVH, 2015
Cook IslandsWidespreadIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014; PIER, 2015Rarotonga
French PolynesiaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014; PIER, 2015Tahiti
New ZealandPresentEPPO, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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C. grandiflorum was first recorded in Australia in 1923 from near Sydney, and its invasive history there is mapped and described by Carroll et al. (2005), with five loci of introductions recorded. In 1935, further records were reported from around Sydney as well as 600 km further north, and it first spread and expanded from these two centres. The first records from Queensland were in 1944 and 1945, and the species was already recognised as an environmental weed by 1955 but received attention only in recent decades. By 1995, it was recorded throughout much of the east coast, and spread further north since that date. It is now a declared noxious weed in Queensland and parts of New South Wales (Carroll et al., 2005). There were also isolated records from South Australia near Adelaide in the 1980s described as ‘vigorous’, and from Perth in Western Australia in the 1990s described as ‘rampant’ and ‘locally abundant’ (Carroll et al., 2005).

C. grandiflorum was introduced into South Africa about 100 years ago and is considered invasive in five provinces, with Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape being the most affected (Simelane et al. 2011).

Although dates of introduction in the Pacific are unknown, C. grandiflorum is very widespread and invasive on Rarotonga, Cook Islands, and also invasive on O’ahu in Hawaii and on Tahiti island in French Polynesia. The species is noted as rare in New Zealand, but with the potential to become widespread. There is also a single record from Los Angeles, California (Gildenhuys et al., 2013). C. grandiflorum was described in 1788 from material collected in Jamaica where it is presumably native.

Risk of Introduction

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C. grandiflorum scored a very high 18 in a risk assessment for the Pacific region, compared to a score of 12 for C. halicacabum (PIER, 2015). Although it is declared a noxious weed in Australia and South Africa, the serious invasive risk it poses may not be widely acknowledged elsewhere, and as such, further introduction of the species for ornamental purposes is possible. Gildenhuys et al. (2013) used native range data to test a bioclimatic model that showed that species of Cardiospermum have potential to spread further in already invaded or introduced regions in Australia, Africa and Asia. The model predicted Australia to have especially favourable conditions for C. corindum, highlighting that extra vigilance should be shown with this species.


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C. grandiflorum grows along streams, rivers, gullies, creeks and other riparian habitats. It inhabits the margins of natural forests and will eventually invade from the edge inwards. It is also found in rocky areas, disturbed sites, and it has also become a weed in built up and open urban areas, and along road and rail networks (EPPO, 2014). 

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number of C. grandiflorum has been recorded as 2n=20 by Hemmer and Morawetz (1990) and as 2n=22 by Paiva and Leitao (1989).

Reproductive Biology

C. grandiflorum is monoecious, with staminate and pistillate flowers (although appearing as bisexual) (Solis et al., 2010). Whereas there is limited data on the reproductive biology of C. grandiflorum, there is more published information on the closely related C. halicacabum, which is self-compatible, having functionally unisexual flowers, and the occurrence of two sexual phases on this functionally monoecious plant that might be a strategy for geitonogamous reproduction (Das and Raju, 2006). Pollination is by insects such as flies, bees, butterflies and wasps. This species also spreads vegetatively by suckering and root fragments.

Physiology and Phenology

Plants flower all year round, and seed germination can occur at any time during the year. In Australia, this species has been recorded flowering throughout the year, but is most abundant from summer through to winter (Weeds of Australia, 2015). In Puerto Rico, it has been collected in flower in December and in fruit in February (Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005). Seed longevity is estimated to be around two years, but further research is being undertaken to improve the understanding of various aspects of the plant ecology.

Environmental Requirements

C. grandiflorum is a tropical, sub-tropical species that thrives in well-drained soils and riparian habitat, preferring moist soils and tolerating occasional flooding. It grows on a variety of soil types in Australia, but is more commonly found on alluvial, gravelly, loam and sandy loam soils. C. grandiflorum tolerates some shade but is most vigorous in full sun (PIER, 2015).


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 15 25


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration05number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall5002000mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • shallow

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Surveys of the natural enemies associated with C. grandiflorum were conducted in northern Argentina (McKay et al., 2010), and 17 phytophagous insects in five orders and ten families, and two fungal pathogens were found. The seed-feeding weevil Cissoanthonomus tuberculipennis (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and the fruit-galling midge Contarinia sp. (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) were identified as the most promising biological control agents for C. grandiflorum outside of its native range (McKay et al., 2010). Lampert et al. (2013) also found C. tuberculipennis preying on seeds of C. grandiflorum.

A stromatic tar-spot fungus Phyllachora serjaniicola was found associated with C. grandiflorum from Brazil, the first report of this fungus on C. grandiflorum (Pereira et al., 2010).

A new insect in the genus Leptocoris was found feeding and reproducing on C. grandiflorum seeds in the Ruwenzori Mountains in western Uganda, and named Leptocoris ursulae (Perreira et al., 2012).

Carroll et al. (2005) also identified a native Australian insect that had expanded its host range to include C. grandiflorum, showing that over the past 30-40 years, these insects have evolved 5-10% longer mouthparts, better suited to attack this species which have large fruits, and suggesting that native biota may rapidly respond in ways that ultimately facilitate control. Andres et al. (2013) furthered this work, showing that Leptocoris tagalicus evolved significantly longer beaks and new allometries via hybridisation to attack C. halicacabum, but that in contrast, those feeding on C. grandiflorum showed no evidence of admixture and were genetically indistinguishable from nearby populations on a native host.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. grandiflorum reproduces by seeds, which are transported by wind and water, mostly while attached to membranous septa of the fruit (Carroll et al., 2005). Plants are also reported to regrow from root fragments.

Whole fruits float and dispersal is thus aided by water. They are also transported by seawater, possibly aiding introduction over very large distances between land masses, and unpublished studies showed that they could remain viable for at least 25 weeks (Gildenhuys et al., 2013). C. grandiflorum was introduced to the Cook Islands after a hurricane, and in Australia, spread was associated with flooding that followed a major cyclone (Gildenhuys et al., 2013).

C. grandiflorum was introduced outside its native distribution range as a garden ornamental, and as an ornamental, it is possible that it has also been dispersed locally by the dumping of garden waste. The species is cultivated for its curious seeds, which are usually carried around by humans.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
DisturbanceSeed and root fragments Yes Yes PIER, 2015
Escape from confinement or garden escapeSeed and root fragments Yes Yes PIER, 2015
Garden waste disposalSeed and root fragments Yes Yes PIER, 2015
Nursery tradeCommercialized as ornamental Yes Yes Henderson, 2001
Ornamental purposesCommercialized as ornamental Yes Yes Henderson, 2001

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesDumped garden waste Yes Weeds of Australia, 2015
Soil, sand and gravelSeeds, root fragments Yes Weeds of Australia, 2015
WaterSeeds Yes Yes Weeds of Australia, 2015
WindSeeds Yes Yes Weeds of Australia, 2015

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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C. grandiflorum has been reported to reduce tree growth in forestry plantations in Ghana (Anning and Yeboah-Gyan, 2007), and also on islands of the Pacific (Waterhouse, 1997). 

Environmental Impact

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The invasive climber C. grandiflorum grows in damp conditions often near river banks, forming dense infestations. Plants can grow to enormous lengths and are capable of smothering trees 10 m tall. The main mode of climbing is via the extensive tendrils, which twirl around supporting structures and other plants, forming large and dense smothering curtains of tangled stems that impede the growth of supporting vegetation, excluding light, harbouring pests and diseases and eventually killing trees. The weight of this species in severe infestations can also contribute to canopy collapse and ecosystem destruction. Seedlings of native shrubs and trees are unable to establish under the stands of this plant (PIER, 2015). C grandiflorum can also prevent the free movement of wildlife so has great potential to negatively impact biodiversity. 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition - strangling
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control


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C. grandiflorum has been widely planted as an ornamental plant around the world.  Different parts of this species are also used in traditional medicine. For example, root derivatives are used for their laxative, emetic and diuretic effects and leaves can be made into medicines to alleviate swelling, oedema and pulmonary complications (Aluka, 2008). Extracts have amoxicillin activity on Staphylococcus aureus (Nnamani et al., 2012), antioxidant and antibacterial properties (Sofidiya et al., 2012), and C. grandiflorum extracts are also used to ease the pain of childbirth in Cote d’Ivoire (Zirihi and Ahmad, 1996).

Uses List

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  • Amenity


  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Vegetable

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore


  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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The native Australian plant known as slender grape (Cayratia clematidea) is relatively similar to C. grandiflorum, but has five leaflets on each leaf and its fruit is a small black berry. 

C. grandiflorum is very similar in appearance to the closely related Cardiospermum halicacabum, but these two species can be distinguished in the following characters:

  • C. grandiflorum has large leaves (6-16 cm long) and densely hairy younger stems. Its flowers (6-11 mm long) and papery capsules (5-6.5 cm long) are also relatively large. Floral nectary has 2, long, corniform lobes.
  • C. halicacabum has relatively small leaves (4-12 cm long) and finely hairy to almost hairless younger stems. Its flowers (3-4 mm long) and papery capsules (1-3 cm long) are also relatively small. Floral nectary has 4, short, ovoid or rounded lobes.

Prevention and Control

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Physical/Mechanical Control

For small plants and small infestations, manual removal is recommended, pulling the plants out by the roots, though thicker growth may require using a brush hook or similar tool to bring down the top part of the plant. Regrowth is common and the taproot is removed, or a combination of manual and chemical control may be required (Biosecurity Queensland, 2013).

Chemical Control

Biosecurity Queensland (2013) lists permitted herbicides for control of C. grandiflorum as glyphosate as a cut stump treatment, and fluroxypyr and 2-4, D amine for spot spraying. Plants can be cut at waist height for glyphosate treatment in dense infestations, leaving supporting vegetation in place to rot away, and any resprout can then also be sprayed. However, management with herbicides is often made difficult because of their close proximity to water sources, and native species can be affected (PIER, 2015).

Biological Control

Research began in 2003 to find biological control agents against C. grandiflorum for use in South Africa, and eight insects and two fungal agents were identified for host-specificity testing (Simelane et al., 2011). Most were also capable of feeding and developing on other Cardiospermum spp. in South Africa, in particular C. halicacabum and C. corindum (McKay et al. 2010). Three promising agents were identified. These were a seed-feeding weevil Cissoanthonomus tuberculipennis (further researched by Lampert et al., 2013), a fruit-galling midge Contarinia spp., and the rust fungus Puccinia arechavaletae (Simelane et al., 2011). Concerns about their potential impacts on the non-target Cardiospermum species and the uncertain native status of these species in southern Africa were reported to have initially prevented their release (Gildenhuys et al., 2013). However, Simelane et al. (2014) state that host-specificity tests, open field tests and long-term monitoring of C. tuberculipennis populations demonstrate that the weevil poses no threat to non-target plant species, and therefore is safe for release against C. grandiflorum in South Africa. Permission to release C. tuberculipennis in South Africa has been granted by the relevant regulatory authorities. Gildenhuys et al. (2015) strongly recommended monitoring of non-target impacts on C. corindum and C. pechueli.  


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10/06/15 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

11/05/14 Original text by:  

Nick Pasiecznik, Agroforestry Enterprises, Villebeuf, Cussy en Morvan, France

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