Madeira Vine, Lamb’s Tail, Mignonette Vine

by Green Deane

in Greens/Pot Herb, Plants, Protein Plant source, Roots/Tubers/Corms, Vegetable, Vines

Anredera cordifolia: Pest or Food Crop?

The Madeira Vine is a love/hate relationship. You will either hate it — as many land owners and governments do — or you will love it for it is a prolific source of food.

Anredera cordifolia's edible leaves, cooked

Apparently far more valued in the past than the present, the plant has quite a history. Anredera cordifolia is native to the dryer areas of South America such as Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, southern Brazil and southern Argentina. It got to the United States soon after the country was founded, or the early 1800s. It was in England by 1835 and was introduced into southern Europe where it is naturalized from Portugal to Serbia. In the United States is naturalized from Florida to Texas. It’s also found in the southern half of California and in Hawaii. In South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii it is a serious “invasive weed.” Australia (New South Wales) spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to fight it.  (Historical note: It was often planted outside of latrines in Australia because it was thought the leaves had a laxative effect.)

Record of intentional cultivation might go back to 1821 in Florida but we aren’t sure because two plants were called the same thing. The Rev. Jedidiah Morse of Charleston Ma. then New Haven Cn., set out in 1820 to survey Indian tribes in the United States. Writing about the St. John’s River in Florida and its border lands on 15 July of that year he said:

Air bubils are not edible, but roots are, cooked

“These light lands are not suitable for Indian corn. The best produces scarcely twenty bushels per acre. Indigo, cotton, madder, sugar cane, the mulberry tree, the date, the olive, the pomegranate, the almond, the Madeira vine, the coffee tree, beyond the twenty seventh degree, the lemon, and above all, the orange trees, thrive well, on choosing suitable soil and exposure.” (page 148, report to the Secretary of War of the United States on Indian Affairs.)

The problem is we really don’t know what Morse was referring to. In his day the common grape vine was also called the Madeira Vine, so was it an Anredera he saw or a Vitis (grape?) Natives in Florida did grow grapes, especially some escaped cultivars left over from much earlier Spanish inhabitations.  However, grape production from escaped or wild grapes in Florida is iffy. Their fruiting is sporadic, often skipping many years, plus there were wild grapes growing without any tending. Cultivating a fast growing starchy root crop like the Madeira Vine, however, makes sense.

Anredera cordifolia in blossom, note flowers droop

As the plant is subtropical it will survive only a light frost. From its roots it will grow some 130 feet a year, with an occasional growth spurt of three feet a week.  It can have lateral stems up to 65 feet long.  The vine does not have tendrils but it climbs by twisting (at eye level) lower left to upper right, the so-called Z-twist. It is interesting that most edibles climb that way whereas most toxics climb lower right to upper left, the S- twist. The Madeira Vine has long drooping flower spikes covered with tiny white blossoms (looks like their common name of Lamb’s Tails.) Their aroma ranges from apple-ish to almond-ish. One of the main identifying characteristics is large prolific clusters of tiny bulbils (sometimes called “tubers) in the air. Plant them and the new crop takes off, or spreads wildly, depending upon your view.

Not only are the underground roots (actually rhizomes) edible but the evergreen leaves as well. They are bright, shiny green on top, lighter green underneath, no hair, short petioles, about five inches long, waxy, roughly heart-shaped. The small bulbils are not edible but have been used medicinally to reduce inflammation, improve ulcers and protect the liver. They might also increase nitric oxide to the brain (see herb blurb below.)

Anredera leptostachys' blossoms point up

Anredera (ah-REE-der-uh or an-RED-er-uh) is thought to come from the Spanish word Enredadra, which refers to any twining or climbing weed. Cordifolia (chord-dee-FOAL-lia) means heart-shaped leaves) As to why it is called the Madeira Vine is also unknown. One author, Edwin Menninger in his 1970 publication Flowering Vines of The World, suggest the plant first went to the island of Madeira and then back to the northern New World.  There are about 12 different species of Anredera, many of them edible, and is related to Malabar Spinach, a garden vegetables in warmer climates. Incidentally the Island of Madeira is called said because in Portuguese it means “wood” from the Latin “materia.”  This is because the island was once heavily wooded. That;s also where we get the word “material.”

Lastly, if you’re in southern Florida or Texas and come across a Madeira Vine with up-turned flower spikes and no ariel tubers you have A. leptostachys (syn A. vesicaria) aka Cuban Ivy. It’s edibility is similar to the Madeira Vine as is the A. baselloides. In fact, the Madeira vine is sometime mistakenly called

 

[stextbox id="custom" caption="Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile"]

IDENTIFICATION: Hairless perennial creeper, fleshy rhizome, bright green, alternate, fleshy/waxy heart-shaped leaves with reddish-brown stems. Small fragrant, cream flowers in slender drooping spikes. Tubers produced underground, bulbils on stems.

TIME OF YEAR: Depends upon location, mid-spring in Florida, summer to fall in some areas, January to May in others.

ENVIRONMENT: Edges of forest, rocky places, coastal areas, hammocks, prefers warm, moist fertile soils.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Leaves cooked and used like spinach. Underground roots cooked, baked preferable. Can be eaten raw but the texture is gooey. Above ground bulbils (tubers) are medicinal.[/stextbox]

HERB BLURB

APeptides. 2007 Jun;28(6):1311-6. Epub 2007 Apr 27.

Ancordin, the major rhizome protein of madeira-vine, with trypsin inhibitory and stimulatory activities in nitric oxide productions. Chuang MT, Lin YS, Hou WC. St. Martin De Porres Hospital, Chiayi 600, Taiwan.

Anredera cordifolia (Ten.) Steenis, or the synonymous name of Boussingaultia baselloides or Boussingaultia gracilis var. pseudobaselloides, is a South American species of ornamental succulent vine, commonly known as the madeira-vine. The fresh leaves of madeira-vine are frequently used as vegetables. A. cordifolia is an evergreen climber that grows from fleshy rhizomes. The rhizome contained one major (23kDa) protein band under non-reducing condition in the SDS-PAGE. The first 15 amino acids in the N-terminal region of the major protein band (23kDa), named tentatively ancordin, were KDDLLVLDIGGNPVV which were highly homologous to sequences of winged bean seed protein ws-1, Medicago truncatula proteinase inhibitor, soybean trypsin inhibitor, and sporamin. By using activity stains, the ancordin showed trypsin inhibitory activity in the SDS-PAGE gel which was found not only in rhizomes but also in aerial tubers, but few in fresh leaves. The crude extracts from rhizomes of madeira-vine were directly loaded onto trypsin-Sepharose 4B affinity column. After washing with 100mM Tris-HCl buffer (pH 7.9) containing 100mM NaCl, the ancordin was eluted directly by 0.2M KC1-HC1 buffer (pH 2.0). In calculation, the purified protein exhibited 0.0428mug trypsin inhibition/mug ancordin (corresponding to 0.53 unit of TPCK-treated trypsin inhibited/mug ancordin). The purified ancordin was used to evaluate the nitric oxide productions in RAW264.7 cells in the presence of polymyxin B (poly B, 50microg/ml) to eliminate the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) contaminations. It was found that ancordin (1.25-5microg/ml) could dose-dependently (R=0.954) stimulate the nitric oxide (NO) productions (expressed as nitrite concentrations) in RAW264.7 cells without significant cytotoxicity, and kept the similar effects in NO production in 6.25microg/ml ancordin.

AnAntinociceptive effects of the tubercles of Anredera leptostachys

M. P. Tornos, M. T. Sáenzhttp, M. D. García and M. A. Fernández

Departamento de Farmacología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Sevilla, C/ Profesor García Gonzalez s/n, 41012- Seville, Spain

The tubercles of Anredera leptostachys are used as an antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory in the popular medicine of the Caribbean basin. In the present work, the anti-nociceptive and central nervous system depressant (CNS) effects of the methanolic extract from the tubercles of A. leptostachys have been evaluated. The antinociceptive activity was assayed in several experimental models in mice: acetic acid, formalin and hot plate tests. The methanolic extract (250 and 500 mg/kg) significantly and in a dose-dependent manner reduced the nociception induced by the acetic acid (P<0.001). In the hot plate test, the extract significantly increased the latency time of jump although it slightly increased the licking time. The naloxone partially reversed the antinociception of the extract in the hot plate test. In the formalin test, the methanolic extract also significantly reduced the painful stimulus but the effect was not dose-dependent. In the study of the CNS-depressant effects, the extract was found to produce a significant reduction of the exploratory capacity with both doses assayed (P<0.001). The muscular relaxation only decreased with the higher doses assayed (P<0.001). The escape instinct was also significantly reduced (P<0.001) by the two doses of the extract and both were more effective than standard drugs morphine and diazepam.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Keith May 11, 2012 at 02:05

Do you think this species would have value as an annual crop in northern climates. It seems to me you get all the benefit of the fast growth without the perennial destructive nature bringing down trees. I imagine the bulbs and seeds don’t survive northern winters?

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2 Link Knight December 2, 2012 at 06:38

i am in the south west of the state of victoria in australia and have had one of these vines that i only noticed last year. i worked out what it may have been from reading a description in a newspaper. turns out it was right. i have had light frosts here and it has been fine with them. this one has quite a decent spread. it is trying to choke some african boxthorn i have here ( also considered a nasty), and has started to run up a cypress pine. i really like eating malabar spinach and am actually almost pleased to have this weed.

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3 j July 6, 2013 at 03:26

Spicy, battered, fried dumplings are delicious recipe. Quick source of health.

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4 Bernadette Roos March 7, 2013 at 07:12

I live in the Western Cape, South Africa and I have one of these growning in my garden. Should I remove it??? It is such a pretty creeper but I am worried that it will take over :-(( I planted it to hide the wall.

Can someone give me some advice?

Thanx
Bernadette

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5 David Thomas March 17, 2013 at 01:09

We have this ‘weed’ growing in our garden here in Brisbane Australia and it really gets out of control. The bulbils shoot, broken stems shoot, rhizomes shoot, and it’s almost impossible to destory.

It covers other plants, bending their branches down under the weight of their heavy fleshing leaves and stems, and plants eventually get smothered by them.

Unfortunately we don’t have any insects or bugs that like to eat this plant so it has made it into the wild and is a noxious weed that is devastating natural bushland. The ease of it propagating from any part of the plant means that streams and river banks spread this weed, now out of control.

It may had nutritional benefits, but in this case I think the cost to the natural environment and balance of plants would greatly out weight it’s nutritional benefits.

Be very very careful with this weed, treat all cuttings as avenues for this week to get out of control and have a super good reason for growing it outside of it’s natural environment in South America.

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6 Green Deane March 17, 2013 at 07:35

Eating it is thus ones civic duty.

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7 Keith April 29, 2013 at 11:14

I know you say this in part jest and part fact but its really true. In a just world, in merely an intelligent human world, these plants would be used as an asset to feed people who either can’t feed themselves or derive their sustenance from government/taxpayer subsidy. If, say, people were given credits for food stamps, or ‘welfare’ in order to glean these various products from farms and other private and public lands we would actually be getting somewhere. The reason we rely on insects (or gasp chemicals) to do our work for us is that we have become fat and lazy from the corn man. Bugs still have to work for their food, so if we find a bug that eats madeira then hooray, we can continue being fat and lazy. Its not that the plants can’t be eradicated but that our time has been stolen from us by modern industrial consumerism, and our will has been stolen by ignorance, laziness, and the corn syrup slumber. Maybe we can just see if dupont has any wartime chemicals we can air lift in, rather than cutting it to the ground 10 times a year, eating or just dropping it and sheet mulching each time. If you don’t care enough to do that stop complaining (theoretically). This world really is absurd. I’m picturing a man who wants a lawn with ten foot tall corn plants popping up everywhere and him running off to the big box store in a panic to get some murderous chemical, for how dare mere food grace him with its presence. Sad sad sad

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8 j July 6, 2013 at 03:32

The vines, if trained to hitch onto frames or strings (doesnt have to be too strong), becomes the best looking, free canopy that provides privacy, prevents rain on balconies, and avoids excessive summer heat. Literally maintenance free. No deep roots either.

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9 Sue May 7, 2013 at 02:43

We live in Southern California and I’ve introduced few of my friends to this plant. I call it my backyard vegetable. I am able to keep it in check as from it overgrown. My family loves to eat this plant. I simply cook them in olive oil and garlic. Cook it for about 2 minutes. Then add soy sauce to taste. It is one of the best tasting vegetables.

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10 david August 21, 2013 at 19:26

Sue,

I also live in so cal and like to plant this, will you please kindly let me know where did you buy the plant from.

Thanks.

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11 steve pham May 16, 2014 at 02:01

I lived in Orange County CA. If you want to have this plant, please come and get it (free). I have so many of them.

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12 Lance December 28, 2013 at 14:23

Do you eat the leaves, aerial tubours or the underground tubours?

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13 Green Deane December 28, 2013 at 14:48

As the articles says, cooked leaves and cooked roots. Raw roots are gooey.

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14 Zsuzsanna November 5, 2013 at 07:49

I was wondering if it could be used to reduce inflammation in the guts as well as to reduce hypersensitivity of various senses for children with autism.

Regards,

Zsuzsanna

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15 Jill March 14, 2014 at 01:33

My mom used to stir fried the leaves or add them in the egg drop soup, but I can not find it anywhere in so cal. Could any one share some Air bulbils or seeds to me? I’m willing to pay the shipping cost. I promise I will keep the vine only in my own private little patio( I will eat them all!).

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16 Charles March 18, 2014 at 02:28

@Jill,

Where about in SoCal are you? I’m in 91780. I’ve been pulling this vine out of my yard for years. The thing is under an area of my fence that I can only get to when it shows its head out of the ground when I’m not looking for it a few months throughout the year. I just yanked out a small handful (bubils and a few young seedlings out of the ground last week.)

Shoot me an email and when I see them growing again, I’ll save them for you.

Having read about using them as shade covers on frames/strings, I might let one grow under heavy supervision on my pergolla but you’re welcome to any others that I find.

n o o d l e n o g g a n @ g m a i l . (you know the rest)

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17 Catherine Lee April 16, 2014 at 04:27

We eat Madeira Vine regularly – I make Asian chicken broth with ginger, garlic, soy, chilli plus some vegetables such as onion, carrot, zucchini and green beans. Just before serving, throw in lots of leaves (I don’t bother chopping – they shrink down) and stir in a few raw eggs which cook into long stringy bits. Delicious and nutritious meal – but doesn’t keep well. Serve and eat. My Chinese girlfriend also puts leaves into Chinese omelettes. Last but not least – I make cabbage juice, then blend in mucilaginous raw leaves such as aloe vera (bitter!) madeira leaves and purslane – another great edible and medicinal herb growing wild. Drink small amounts regularly for gut problems. Healing, anti- inflammatory and no side effects unlike all the toxic prescription and over-the-counter drugs for acid reflux and the like. Giddy everyone from sunshiny Australia. And hi Green Deane – watch your videos often and I am just a little bit in love!!!!

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18 Asher Mooney July 30, 2014 at 00:55

Im in bush regeneration and decided to google this plant today to find better control measures I can take. But as soon as I found out u could eat it all my searching went into that. Haha I already try some leaves and I gotta say not bad….. Question what can I do with the tubers

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19 Mary O August 20, 2014 at 15:52

Some one gave my mother a plant cutting in San Diego. Before my mother died and we sold her house I took a cutting with my to Colorado. I grow it indoors and use it for the purpose as told to my mother; for getting rid of canker sores. I’ve never had a problem with canker soars but have suggested its use to others whom have. The response I’ve gotten from all who have tried it is that it worked immediately on ridding the sore. Just thought I’d share.

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20 JJ October 12, 2014 at 16:20

My mom and my aunt plant it, and I planted to pot before. I never paid attention until I see my neighbor plant it. Now I plant it again, it even can survive in water, I put it in tall glass jar, see the vine falling, very beautiful!

It never attracts insects, no pestcide needed, and no commercial fertilizer needed.
The madeira vine can be vegetalbe and herb. The best way to eat it is after the soup boiling, turf off flame, then put the leaves, do not cook too long. It tastes great!

In Chinese medicine, we use it to heal liver problem, obesity, and increse men’s libido text! Amazing!

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21 Moi October 30, 2014 at 00:13

Hi, I just wanted to say a Big Thanks for this really informative blog. My parents of Chinese and Vietnamese decent have been growing all sorts of herbs in our small garden plot in England. I have 2 good big healthy vines, I have trained it up bamboo canes and then onto on a pagoda canopy design to use it for shade in Summer, I think it looks lovely myself and it is very hardy even through our cold winters, it gives life to my drab garden, kind of an evergreen with lovely white delicate flowers. I asked my dad what it was called but I couldn’t find it under the Chinese name he gave, well it was a long guessing game from the Chinese sounding word to then using western characters and searching it online..it has taken me weeks to get here! My parents use the vine to heal mine and my siblings wounds from small grazes to deep cuts which really needed stitches- a few leaves and stalks collected then grinded to a pulp and then bandage it against the area,-they always fixed us better with the garden plants and other home-made remedies. They would also harvest and dry the nodules to use as a powder form medicine. My parents are strong believers in natural herbal remedies, growing and eating of the land and keen foragers. Family and friends come by often when they need a supply of this vine.

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