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Cardiospermum grandiflorum

(Balloon Vine)


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Vigorous vine from Africa and neotropics with tendrils and bladdery , three angled , elongated fruits about two and a half inches long.

Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Afrikaans:


Common Names in English:

Balloon Vine, Balloonvine, Heartseed, Heartseedvine, Showy Balloonvine, Showy Heartseed


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Family Sapindaceae

Trees or shrubs (or woody vines with tendrils in Cardiospermum and allied genera), rarely herbaceous climbers . Indumentum usually of simple hairs , often glandular on young parts, buds, and inflorescences. Leaves alternate, usually estipulate; leaf blade pinnate or digitate, rarely simple; leaflets alternate to opposite, entire or dentate to serrate. Inflorescence a terminal or axillary thyrse ; bracts and bracteoles small. Flowers unisexual , rarely polygamous or bisexual , actinomorphic or zygomorphic, usually small. Sepals 4 or 5(or 6), equal or unequal, free or connate at base , imbricate or valvate . Petals 4 or 5(or 6), sometimes absent, free, imbricate, usually clawed, often with scales or hair-tufted basal appendages . Disk conspicuous , fleshy , complete or interrupted , lobed or annular , rarely absent. Stamens 5-10(-74), usually 8, rarely numerous , variously inserted but usually within disk, often exserted in male flowers; filaments free, rarely connate; anthers dorsifixed , longitudinally dehiscent , introrse ; staminodes sometimes present in carpellate flowers, but filaments shorter and anthers with a thick wall, indehiscent. Ovary superior, (1-) 3(or 4) -loculed; ovules 1 or 2(or several) per locule, placentation axile , rarely parietal , anatropous , campylotropous, or amphitropous ; style usually apical (terminal), semigynobasic in Allophylus [gynobasic in Deinbollia Schumacher & Thonning]; stigma entire or 2 or 3(or 4) -lobed, usually rudimentary in male flowers. Fruit a loculicidal capsule, berry, or drupe, or consisting of 2 or 3 samaras, often 1-seeded and 1-loculed by abortion . Seeds 1(or 2 or more) per locule; testa black or brown, hard, often with a conspicuous fleshy aril or sarcotesta ; embryo curved , plicate , or twisted, oily and starchy; endosperm usually absent. 2n = 20-36.

One hundred thirty-five genera and ca. 1500 species: widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions, especially well represented in tropical SE Asia; 21 genera (one endemic) and 52 species (16 endemic, one introduced ) in China.

There is some variation in the circumscription of Sapindaceae in taxonomic treatments, particularly with regard to the inclusion of genera from the closely related, predominately temperate families Aceraceae and Hippocastanaceae. Several studies including Müller and Leenhouts (in Ferguson & Müller, Evolutionary Significance Exine: 407-445. 1976), and more recently those based on molecular data (Stevens, Angiosperm Phylogeny Website, 2001 onward; Harrington et al. , Syst. Bot. 30: 366-382. 2005), supported the recognition of a broadly defined Sapindaceae incorporating Aceraceae and Hippocastanaceae. Harrington et al. (loc. cit. ) proposed four subfamilies or clades, comprising Sapindoideae (including

Koelreuteria and Ungnadia Endlicher), Dodonaeoideae, Hippocastanoideae (including taxa previously referred to Aceraceae and Hippocastanaceae, plus Handeliodendron), and a monotypic "Xanthoceratoideae". Within Hippocastanoideae, Acer Linnaeus and Dipteronia Oliver comprise a monophyletic group and are treated in this Flora as Aceraceae. Similarly, Aesculus Linnaeus, Billia Peyritsch, and the Chinese endemic Handeliodendron Rehder form a monophyletic group and are treated here as Hippocastanaceae. There is some support for "Xanthoceratoideae" being the first lineage to diverge within the broadly defined Sapindaceae assemblage; consequently, Xanthoceras is treated separately from genera in Sapindoideae and Dodonaeoideae in the following account of Sapindaceae s.s. The sequence of genera reflects Müller and Leenhouts (loc. cit.) as modified by recent analyses based on molecular and morphological data, rather than following the order developed by Radlkofer (Sitzungsber. Math.-Phys. Cl. Königl. Bayer. Akad. Wiss. München 20: 105-379. 1890; and in Engler, Pflanzenreich 98a-h(IV . 165) : 1-1539. 1931-1934), which was previously followed in FRPS.

The main economic uses of this family include (1) timber: Amesiodendron chinense, Dimocarpus longan, D. confinis, Litchi chinensis, Pavieasia kwangsiensis, and Pometia pinnata; (2) fruit: Dimocarpus longan, Litchi chinensis, and Nephelium lappaceum; (3) medicine: Dimocarpus longan (arillode ), Litchi chinensis (seeds), and Sapindus saponaria (roots ) ; (4) oil : Amesiodendron chinense, Delavaya toxocarpa, and Xanthoceras sorbifolium. Saponins occur widely in the family, commonly used as a fish poison and for their detergent properties.[1]

Genus Cardiospermum

Herbaceous or woody climbers , rarely shrubs . Leaves usually biternate or bitrilobate; stipules small, deciduous; leaflets pinnately lobed or dentate , usually with pellucid glands . Panicles axillary ; peduncles rather long, first pair of branches forming tendrils or spines; bracts and bracteoles subulate . Flowers unisexual , zygomorphic, with slender noded pedicels. Sepals 4 or 5, imbricate, outer 2 smaller. Petals 4, with a large scale inside and slightly above base ; scales of abaxial petals with broadly winged appendage , scales of adaxial petals simple . Disk lobed into 2 large glandular lobes at base of petals. Stamens (male flowers) 8, slightly longer than petals. Ovary (female flowers) ellipsoid , trigonous , 3-loculed; ovules 1 per locule, inserted at middle of middle axis; style short; stigma 3-lobed. Capsules inflated , saclike, 3-loculed; pericarp membranous or papery , veined. Seeds 1 per locule, subglobose; hilum cordate or suborbicular ; embryo with large cotyledons, outer one arched, inner one reflexed . 2n = 20, 22.

About 12 species: mostly in tropical and subtropical America; one species in China.[2]

Physical Description

Habit: Vine , Forb/herb


Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 3,028 meters (0 to 9,934 feet).[3]


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Duration: Perennial


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Publishing author : Sw. Publication : Prodr. (Swartz) 64. 1788 [20 Jun-29 Jul 1788]

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Cardiospermum

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 5 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

C. corindum (Balloon Vine) · C. dissectum (Chihuahuan Balloon-Vine) · C. grandiflorum (Balloon Vine) · C. halicacabum (Balloon Vine) · C. microcarpum (Heartseed)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 29, 2007:



  1. Nianhe Xia & Paul A. Gadek "Sapindaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 12 Page 1, 6. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. Nianhe Xia & Paul A. Gadek "Cardiospermum". in Flora of China Vol. 12 Page 6, 24. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  3. Mean = 434.530 meters (1,425.623 feet), Standard Deviation = 571.090 based on 326 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-11-30