Cardiospermum halicacabum L.
Balloon Vine, Love-in-a-Puff
Family - Sapindaceae
Stems - Vining, climbing, branched, to 4 m, with axillary tendrils.
Stem and leaves.
Leaves - Alternate, 1x or 2x ternately compound, short to long petiolate. Leaflets coarsely toothed or pinnately few-lobed, sparsely pubescent.
Inflorescence - Small axillary panicles, long-stalked, the stalk with a pair of tendrils near its midpoint, the branches and stalks glabrous or sparsely and minutely hairy.
Inflorescence and tendrils.
Flowers - Zygomorphic, hypogynous, stalked. Calyces deeply 4-lobed, the lobes oblong to oblongobovate, usually persistent but inconspicuous and withered at fruiting. Corollas of 4 free petals, 2.5-3.5 mm long, white, with a petaloid appendage surrounding the stamens and ovary. Stamens 8, somewhat exserted beyond the petal appendages, the anthers yellow. Pistil of 3 fused carpels, 3-locular, with 1 ovule per locule. Style 1, slightly exserted at flowering, the stigma deeply 3-lobed.
Fruits - About 4 cm diameter, shallowly 3-lobed, greatly inflated and air filled, with papery walls, green turning to red-brown at maturity, 3-locular, usually 3-seeded.
Fruit and seeds.
Seeds - Nearly spherical, smooth, glabrous, black at maturity with a well-developed and sharply delineated white aril, this heart- or kidney-shaped.
Flowering - July - September.
Habitat - Open, moist disturbed areas.
Origin - Native to old and new world tropical regions.
Other info. - This curious species is not common in Missouri, being found mostly in counties bordering the Mississippi River. When in fruit it is easily recognized by the pillowy balloons, whose ornamental value have prompted the plant's inclusion in gardens. The attractive seeds have also been used in jewelry. The plants have been used medicinally. The species is considered a pest in areas of the southeastern U.S.
Photographs taken at Marais Temps Clair Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 9-23-2010 and 8-17-2012 (SRTurner).