Common names (selected) English: heart pea, heartseed, lesser balloonvine, love in a puff, small balloon creeper, small balloon vine, winter-cherry; Chinese: 倒地鈴 (falling bell); French (Haiti): bonnet carré, persil bâtard, pois de merveille; German: Ballonrebe; Blasenerbse; Herzsame; Indonesia: cenet (Malay, Western Sumatra), ketipes (Javanese), paria gunung (Sundanese); Italian: vesicaria del cuore; Malaysian: bintang berahi, peria bulan, uban kayu; Portuguese: balaozinho; Spanish: amor en bolsita (Costa Rica), farolito (Costa Rica), globitos (Costa Rica), pejuco colorado (Mexico), revienta caballo (Cuba), toffe-toffe (Dominican Republic); Philippines: kana, paria-aso, parol-parolan
Description: Herbaceous annual, biennial, and perennial vine
Native regions and distribution: Native range is unclear but thought to be Central and South America. It is found throughout the world in subtropical and temperate zones where it is considered invasive. It is found in the south central, east and Midwest sections of the U.S.
Urban habitat: C. halicacabum can be found growing in a wide range of ecological conditions, including wet or seasonal climates, acid and basic soils, and in dry, marshy or periodically flooded places. It prefers sunny places, and is often found in wastelands, roadsides, grassland, scrub, hedges and forest edges, and in cultivated areas. It is very successful invading forest margins, woodland, grassland, riverbanks, floodplains and rocky sites. In China it is described as a common weed in forest margins, shrublands, grasslands, cultivated areas and wastelands of the east, south and southwest.
Ecological function: Food and habitat for insects and other wildlife.
History and human uses: The name Cardiospermum is the combination of the Latin words “cardio” meaning heart, and “sperma” meaning seed and refers to the white heart-shaped pattern observed on the seed. The ornamental trade of C. halicacabum spans more than 100 years. However, in Australia, it is speculated that C. halicacabum was introduced during James Cook’s second voyage in the 1770’s. In North America, C. halicacabum was reported in the Spontaneous Illinois Vascular Flora before 1922 and was described as abundant in Oklahoma in the 1820’s. The root is the most important plant part used for medicinal purposes and has historically been used in the treatment of rheumatism, nervous diseases, stiffness of the limbs, and snakebite. Leaves are crushed and made into a tea, which aids itchy skin. Salted leaves are used as a poultice on swellings. The leaf juice has been used as a treatment for earache. In South-East Asia it is considered to be a diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, antipyretic and purgative. Apart from its medicinal uses, C. halicacabum is eaten as a vegetable, the stems are used to make baskets, the seeds used as beads and to produce an edible oil. C. halicacabum has also been used as animal feed and planted as an ornamental vine. It is among the Ten Sacred Flowers of Kerala State in India, collectively known as “Dasapushpam.”