Madeira Vine (Anredera cordifolia)

Common names: Madeira Vine,

Taxonomic name: Anredera cordifolia

Family: Basellaceae

Uses: Food, shade, anti-inflammatory, helps ulcers heal

Area of origin: South America

Warnings: No health warnings but it is a very vigorous and invasive vine so watch out in your garden. Is an official weed in some areas.

Madeira Vine or Heartleaf Madeira vine is a vigorous, invasive climber from South America. It is hated by many as an invasive weed that can smother other plants very rapidly. One plant covered our Almond, and Sicilian Nectarine trees and made strong inroads into the canopies of the Elder and Plum trees.

Madeira Vine loves the same conditions as our Sweet Potatoes

The vine has masses of flowers in Summer which attract swarms of Bees. It grows numerous, long inflorescences of white or creamy flowers that they love. The droning of Bees around ours at the end of Summer was reassuring.

The plant reproduces from a thick rhizome and from lots of small aerial bulbs that grow on the vine itself. These are easily dislodged and readily grow into new vines. We use the vine as a rapidly growing shade plant and as chicken food and general biomass for the garden.

Masses of small flowers.
Masses of small flowers.

Fortunately, the leaves and roots are edible. We’ve not tried the aerial bulbils as food yet, they’re used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The plant is a relative of Malabar Spinach (Basella rubra and B. alba) and shares their thick, fleshy leaves that become slightly muciliginous as one eats them. Cook the leaves as you would any green leafy vegetable. The rhizome can be eaten fresh but becomes very slimy if chewed for a long time. Roasting gets rid of this characteristic and makes for a nice potato substitute. Madeira vine is already cultivated eaten extensively in Japan, where it is called ‘okawakame’ (land seaweed).

Thick, fleshy leaves are characteristic of Basellaceae.
Thick, fleshy leaves are characteristic of Basellaceae.

Herbally, the thick leaves can be easily crushed and applied to soothe external inflammations and rashes and it is used in tropical areas to heal ulcers.

We have another climber, obviously from Basellaceae as well, but it doesn’t have the bulbils or well developed rhizome of Madeira vine, nor the seeds of Malabar Spinach. We’re not sure what it is but its quite vigorous and we will try and replace the Madeira Vine with it and move the Madeira Vine to a large pot.