Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from tropical Africa, Asia and America, Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum), is a highly invasive perennial soft vine that likes moist open forest edges and disturbed sites, edges of and creek and drainage lines, and rivers.
  • Common on the east coast in Queensland and New South Wales, also present in South Australia and Western Australia
  • It is capable of killing trees by smothering them or causing them to collapse under its additional weight.
  • Balloon Vine has paper balloon like capsules that can float and distribute seed downstream.
  • While infestations of Balloon Vine may look overwhelming, control and removal is possible when used with targeted follow up work.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) is a highly invasive, scrambling, perennial, vine / climber with soft green growing stems and a woody base, white flowers, and a distinctive fruit like a small paper balloon. The stems can grows up to 10 m long, stems are slender not exceeding a stem diameter of 20 mm,  sometimes streaked with red markings, and becoming woody and brown with age towards the base. The leaves are soft, hairy and light to dark green in colour. The leaves are much divided comprised of nine leaflets made from three groupings of three. Each leaflet is about  20-80 mm long and 10-50 mm wide have coarsely toothed margins. The plant stem, leaf and flower stalks are green, relatively hairy, with long to short hairs.  Balloon Vine uses tendrils to grasp onto other structures and these tendrils emerge from the leaf axil (the joint between the stems and the leaf stalk) or below the flower. The root system is shallow with a long woody taproot (Auld & Medd 1987; Harden 1992; Thorp & Wilson 1998 – ; Muyt 2001; Navie 2004; Land Protection 2006).

The flowers are white, about 8–10 mm long, with four petals, and several yellow stamens. Flowers have four sepals that are arranged in pairs, the outer pair are smaller about 2 mm long,  the inner pair are significantly larger 8-9 mm long. Flowers are produced in small clusters about 35 mm long. The main flowering stem holding flower cluster (peduncle) is 50–150 mm long. The individual flowering stalks (pedicels) are about 5 mm long, with flowers .

The fruits are papery capsules 40-65 mm long and 30-45 mm wide, with prominent main ribs and lateral reticulate (branching random) veins, and sparsely covered in small hairs (i.e. they are puberulent) with a shortly pointed tip. Fruits are initially a light green colour, becoming light papery straw-brown coloured as they age. Fruits have three compartments (i.e. carpels), and each compartment produces a single seed about 6-7 mm diameter. Unripe seeds are green, ripe seeds are black.

Recognition: This species can normally be recognised by the combination of the following characters; Climbing vine with soft stems up to 10 metres long with red longitudinal markings up to 10 m long; sometimes woody at the very base; divided leaves with tendril from leaf axil (joint where leaf joint the stem); clusters of white flowers about 8–10 mm long, with four petals, and several yellow stamens along the stem; balloon like large papery fruits, green at first turning papery straw-brown coloured.

For further information and assistance with identification of Balloon Vine, contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)

Vine, Herb

Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) prefers water courses, gullies, roadsides and disturbed areas in moist forests and woodlands. It can cover trees up to 8-10 meters tall and will grow among trees of any height. Balloon Vine grows best in high, light environments but can tolerate moderate shade as well as periodic water logging. Invasions will often start on the moist sunny edge of forests (Auld & Medd 1987; Harden 1992; Western Australian Herbarium 1998-; Muyt 2001; Navie 2004; Land Protection 2006).

Are there similar species?

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) may be mistaken for the native species Slender Grape (Cayratia clematidea), however Balloon Vine has paper capsules and Slender Grape has a berry fruit. Slender Grape also has five leaflets and hairless stems, while Balloon Vine has nine leaflets and hairy stems (Muyt 2001).

Balloon Vine can also be mistaken for Small Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum halicacabum var. halicacabum and C. halicacabum var. microcarpum). As the name suggests, Small Balloon Vine has smaller capsules than Balloon Vine. Balloon Vine capsules are 80 mm long versus C. halicacabum var. halicacabum which are 41 mm long and C. halicacabum var. microcarpum which are 20 mm long (Western Australian Herbarium 1998-; Muyt 2001).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) climbs up trees and over other vegetation for support, smothering them and preventing photosynthesis.  Balloon vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) is a significant environmental weed in eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland, and is currently listed as a priority environmental weed in four Natural Resource Management Regions. This species is also one of the exotic vines that has resulted in "invasion of exotic vines and scramblers" being declared a "key threatening process" in New South Wales.

Agriculture: Balloon Vine could invade orchards and other horticultural crops or forestry.

Native ecosystems:  Balloon vine grows rapidly into the tops of trees and can smother and kill trees, shrubs and ground-cover plants. It forms a thick curtain of stems and leaves which excludes light and inhibits photosynthesis in the native plants below. Infestations start at the edge of forests where the weight of the Balloon Vine growing en-masse can cause the whole forest edge or canopy to collapse and results in further infestations and ecosystem destruction over time. This increases light availability and disturbs the soil surface creating ideal conditions for the growth of more Balloon Vine and other weed species (McClymont 1997; Muyt 2001; Land Protection 2006). It is common along creeks, near the margins of rainforests, and in moist gullies in the coastal districts of Queensland and New South Wales. It also grows along disturbed creek-lines in south-western Western Australia and in and around Adelaide in South Australia. Balloon vine can be seen growing in most of the riverine rainforest remnants around Brisbane. These rainforest remnants are small and any reduction of their edges exposes them to greater risk of weed invasion and a number of other threats.

Urban areas: May invade roadsides and grassy areas and invade abandoned or little cared for gardens.

How does it spread?

The seed of Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum)is dispersed by wind and water. The fruit is particularly buoyant enabling the seed to travel a large distance by water from the original infestation. The practice of dumping garden waste at remnant bushland sites has also contributed to its spread (Harden 1992; Muyt 2001; Vivian-Smith & Panetta 2002; Navie 2004; Harley 2007). DPI NSW (2019) also report that Balloon Vine also re-grows from root fragments.

What is its history in Australia?

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) was most likely introduced as a garden plant which has now escaped and naturalised in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia (McClymont 1997; Western Australian Herbarium 1998-; Groves et al. 2005).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

While infestations of Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) may appear daunting, they can be effectively controlled by physical removal, or chemical treatment. The spread of this plant should be contained to prevent further impacting of other vegetation.

Chemical control: Control via systemic herbicides is an option for larger plants that cannot be removed by hand. The use of herbicide spray may be an option when used with the correct equipment on large plants. Foliar spraying seedlings with herbicide if there are no native plants nearby. and using this method on infestations climbing over desirable species may result in off- target damage so other methods should be employed. Young and mature plants can be scraped and painted with herbicide to kill them. Older vines with very large stems can be injected with herbicide or the cut and swab (cut and paint) method can be used with a systemic herbicide.  Do not pull the vine from large infestation on large trees as it may damage native vegetation and any other small fauna in the tree. Remove and dispose of all seeds. Follow-up treatment will be required for new seedlings. Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Non-chemical control: Physical control: Hand remove individual or groups of small seedlings. These can be hand pulled making sure the tap root is removed. For larger plants / vines the stems can be cut and the tap root removed, followed at a later date with the removal of the dried out vegetation in the canopy. This method may be difficult due to the height of the infestation. Again, do not pull the vine from large infestation on large trees as it may damage native vegetation and any other small fauna in the tree. Follow up is critical over the following 18 months to prevent regrowth from residual tap roots and seedling emergence post disturbance. A catchment wide approach can be beneficial when controlling Balloon Vine to prevent spread and re-colonisation along waterways (Muyt 2001; Land Protection 2006; Harley 2007).

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) generally flowers in the summer months, but if conditions permit it will flower at any time of the year. The fruit ripens and turns a light brown during autumn when it splits into three segments exposing the black seeds. Alternatively these fruits can fall from the tree and float in water ways remaining buoyant for some time. The seeds are viable for up to 18 months and will often mass germinate when a disturbance creates a clearing in the vegetation (Harden 1992; Muyt 2001; Navie 2004; Vivian-Smith & Panetta 2002).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) is found in coastal and sub coastal regions of Australia. It is widespread from the Illawarra in eastern New South Wales up to Northern Queensland. It also naturalised in Western Australia around Perth and has recently  been found growing wild in creeks and drains in and around Adelaide in South Australia (AVH 2020; Western Australian Herbarium 1998-; Muyt 2001; Navie 2004).

Where does it originate?

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) is native to tropical areas of Asia, Africa, America and the West Indies. It is a weed in many tropical countries (Auld & Medd 1987; Harden 1992; Harley 2007).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Cardiospermum grandiflorum

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

Cardiospermum hirsutum Willd.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Heart-seed Vine, Large Balloon Creeper, Showy Balloon Vine

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