Balsam Apple Vine

Native to tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, the Balsam Apple Vine (aka Mormodica Charantia) has escaped cultivation, spreading through Texas to Florida.  Some see it as a weedy curse 🙄 but I see it as a delicate, pretty addition to my vine wall 🙂

Mormodica Charantia Vines 10/21/13

M. Charantia really comes into its own in October!  The 5-7 lobed, palmate leaves grow from slender stems that quickly reach lengths of 12-18ft.   Tiny, round yellow flower buds appear almost immediately:

Mormodica Charantia Vine with small buds, 10/21/13

M. Charantia is a member of the cucumber family, and as such is monoecious, meaning it produces male and female flowers on the same vine.  Male flowers produce the pollen that bees and other insects carry to the female flowers.

Mormodica Charantia Vine with open flower, 10/20/13

If fertilization occurs, the female flowers produce orange pointy gourds that look like this:

Mormodica Charantia Gourd, 10/21/13

What happens next is so interesting!  When the gourds mature, they split into three irregular parts that curl backwards to reveal  bright scarlet arils containing next year’s seeds..

Mormodica Charantia Open Gourd with seeds, 10/21/13

To avoid invasive spread, it is best to remove the gourds before they open…or be really pro-active and pluck new vines out of the ground when you first discover them.  Note: the Balsam Apple’s “seedling” leaves have a different appearance…start yanking as soon as these emerge:


One last caution: this is NOT an edible plant: the rind and seeds are toxic, causing severe gastric disturbance if ingested!

Until next time….

🙂 🙂 🙂


11 thoughts on “Balsam Apple Vine

    • Your welcome! It can be invasive if you don’t keep an eye on new growth. We have a retention canal behind our fence and there are several small trees that get completely obscured by m.charantia this time of year. .the gourds look pretty hanging on them though!

  1. Pingback: I told you it was invasive! | small house/BIG GARDEN

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