Madeira Vine

Anredera cordifolia (Ten.) Steenis

Synonyms - Anredera cordifolia subsp. gracilis (Miers) Xifreda & Argimón; Boussingaultia cordifolia Ten.; Boussingaultia gracilis Miers; Boussingaultia gracilis Miers forma gracilis; Boussingaultia gracilis Miers forma pseudobaselloides Hauman; Boussingaultia baselloides Kunth (misapplied)

Family: Basellaceae


Cordifolia is Latin for heart shaped leaves.

Other Names:

Lamb's tail
Mignonette vine


Madeira Vine is a vigorous perennial vine climbing to 30 m high. There are woody tubers on both underground and aerial stems. The aerial tubers are warty, up to 8 cm long and resemble root ginger. The alternate leaves are glossy, ovate, up to 15 cm long and very broad. The drooping inflorescences are up to 18 cm long with small white fragrant flowers, each flower is about 6 mm in diameter. Madeira Vine rarely forms fruit in Australia but spreads vegetatively from its tubers.
Madeira Vine is native to South America and now a weed of bushland, river banks and other moist sites, often in coastal areas. The growth is rapid and capable of smothering native vegetation. Flowers in summer to autumn.




First leaves:


The egg shaped (ovate) leaves are alternately arranged, slightly fleshy (semi-succulent) in nature, hairless (glabrous) and sometimes have a glossy upper surface. They have a rounded to pointed tip, curved sides and indented base. The edges are smooth but often wavy and sometimes tinged with red and are often turned inward.
Stipules -
Petiole - 5-20 mm long, sometimes tinged red. Hairless.
Blade - More or less heart-shaped (cordate) or broadly egg-shaped with the broad end at the base (ovate). These leaves (20-150 mm long x 15-100 mm wide) either taper to a blunt point or have a somewhat rounded tip (acute or obtuse apex). Hairless. The leaves form a waxy coating and become thick and leathery in harsh conditions.


Hairless, fleshy, sometimes woody, climbing stems extending for 20 m or more. Growth commences in spring and younger stems are green or reddish in colour and round in cross-section. They become rope-like in appearance and turn greyish-brown in colour as they mature. Initially they are a few millimetres in diameter but can grow up to several centimetres thick.
Distinctive greyish-brown or greenish-coloured warty tubers (10-100 mm long, but usually 20-30 mm long) often form at the joints (nodes) along the older stems. These wart-like tubers are very characteristic.
Tubercles may also occur in the leaf axils.

Flower head:

Masses of white drooping flower clusters (6-30 cm long) which arise from the forks (axils) of the upper leaves. Simple or 2-4 branched, hanging racemes about 180 mm long. Each flower cluster (raceme) bears numerous small, white or cream-coloured, fragrant flowers (about 5 mm across).


These white to cream, 5 mm wide, tubular, star-shaped flowers have five 'petals' (sepals or perianth segments) and are borne on short stalks (pedicels) 2-3 mm long. They also have five stamens and an ovary topped with a three-branched style and three tiny club-shaped stigmas. The petals (2-3 mm long) are fleshy, persistent, turn dark brown or black in colour with age.
They are fragrant with an aniseed scent.
Pedicel - 2-3 mm long.
Ovary - 3 branched style. Club shaped stigma.
Sepals -
Petals - 5. 2-3 mm long. Fleshy, persistent, initially white turning black with age.
Stamens - 5
Anthers -


It has a single seed per fruit but rarely forms fruit in Australia or Africa.
Aerial tubers are irregularly shaped, warty and potato like and around 80 mm long.


Seeds have been produced in Queensland but are not common elsewhere in Australia.


Fibrous roots and rhizomes with tubers that are often up to 200 mm diameter.

Key Characters:

Climbing vine, aerial and root tubers and masses of fragrant flowers in drooping spikes.


Life cycle:

Perennial vine with active growth from September to April in WA. It tends to drop its leaves over winter in many areas. New stems are produced annually from the fleshy perennial rhizome or rootstock and can grow 1 m per week in warm humid conditions. Underground tubers slowly form into differing shaped tubers about 300 mm x 130 mm and up to 1 m deep. Aerial tubers break off the stem easily once the stem is cut and most sprout when they contact moist ground. They can grow up to 10 metres in their firs year.


Partially salt tolerant.
Drought tolerant.
Frost and snow tolerant.
Tolerates sand blasting.


Vegetative by tubers, tubercles, rhizomes and coppicing. Seeds may be important in Queensland.

Flowering times:

Mainly March to May in WA with occasional flowers in January, February and June (Florabase).
March to April in NSW.
Flowers mainly in summer to autumn outside of tropical areas.
January to April in New Zealand.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Before the 8 leaf stage seedlings have only fibrous roots whereas tuberlings will still be attached to the tuber.

Vegetative Propagules:

Aerial tubers, underground tubers, rhizomes and tubercles in the leaf axils.
Underground tubers have re-sprouted after 10 years of annual herbicide application. Aerial tubers may remain viable in the soil for at least 5 years and there have been 1500 fallen aerial tubers per square metre under old infestations. Aerial tubers can sprout in dense shade but usually sprout when exposed to higher light levels.



Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Madeira Vine mainly spreads by large numbers of specialised aerial tubers that are produced along the stems. These can be transported downstream in floods and waterways. It also spreads vegetatively by tuberous roots and creeping underground stems (rhizomes).
The tubers are often dispersed in dumped garden waste and contaminated soil which supplements natural dispersal.
Overseas and in Queensland it may also be spread by seed.

Origin and History:

Native to South America, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay



Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.




Wet temperate, subtropical and tropical regions
More troublesome in summer rainfall areas with warm, damp and seasonally wet areas.
Tolerates shade but prefers open sunny areas.
Often in coastal areas.


Plant Associations:

Woodland, bushland and riparian species.
Dry coastal vegetation, damp sclerophyll forests, riparian areas
Along creeklines.





Environmental weed that can smother vegetation or cause it to collapse under the weight of the vine.
Weed of forest gaps and margins, moist woodlands, bushland, riparian zones (banks of watercourses), waste areas, disturbed sites, gardens, parks, plantation crops (e.g. sugar cane) and roadsides.
It has the ability to establish under an intact canopy and can quickly engulf native species. The growth rate of stems in warmer and moister regions can exceed 1 m per week, and it can grow over 6 m in a growing season. Its climbing stems can totally envelop the canopy layer, while is trailing stems also smother the ground layer of invaded habitats. This reduces light penetration, eventually killing the plants underneath and preventing the germination and regeneration of native plants. The sheer weight of dense infestations can even bring down trees in the canopy layer, and in this way it can change the structure of invaded communities, eventually destroying them.


Suspected of poisoning livestock but field cases are rare. Stock rarely eat it.
The sap is a skin irritant.
In feeding trials, cattle fed 9.5 kg of freshly cut flowering foliage exhibited no ill effects, while sheep and pigs fed 1.8 kg over two days exhibited temporary diarrhoea before recovering (Hurst 1942).




Remove stock from the infestation.


It is a declared plant in all states of Australia and should be controlled. It is a Weed Of National Significance (WONS).
It has been included in the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD 2006).
It is a noxious weed in South Africa.

Management and Control:

Because it quickly proliferates from small vegetative parts (its aerial tubers), and also survives by underground tubers, it is notoriously difficult to control.
Once established Madeira Vine is very difficult to control. The standard approach is to scrape long sections of the vines with a knife, from ground level up to head height, and immediately paint with neat glyphosate. Scraping of Madeira must be done gently to avoid cutting through the vine. Thicker vines should be scraped deep enough to expose the white fibrous core of the vine. The vines are either carefully scraped and painted between the attached tubers or the tubers are removed from the lower section of the vine before scraping and placed in a bag. Bagging prevents aerial tubers from being knocked to the ground where they will eventually start growing. A proportion of the aerial tubers above the scraping will then rot with the rest of the vine and the remainder will fall to the ground. Where dense tuberlings occur around the climbing vines it may be beneficial to spray these before treating larger vines to avoid damaging them by trampling. If vines are to be pulled down then spread a tarpaulin underneath to collect the falling aerial tubers. Otherwise time must be allowed for them to sprout or recover so they can be sprayed. A standard spray application is glyphosate at the rate of 1:50 with water (200 mL glyphosate per 10 L water) plus 5 mL LI 700 per litre of mix.
The key ingredient for the management of Madeira Vine at any site is regular follow-up weeding. It is easy to treat a large area of canopy vines initially, whereas it is very difficult to maintain a treated area over time. Areas of dense ground layer infestation typically require as many as 6 follow-up treatments per year to prevent the vines from climbing. It is essential that there is a consistent reduction of tuber input on a site for long-term success. Subsequent weeding of an area must occur regularly enough to prevent underground tubers from re-sprouting vines that climb up to produce new aerial tubers. Removal of available climbing ladders is beneficial.

For overall spraying use 1 L glyphosate450 plus 500 mL LI 700 per 100 L water and spray until just wet. This will also kill most companion plants.
For more selective spraying use 500 mL fluroxypyr200 plus 250 mL organosilicone surfactant (e.g. Pulse) per 100 L water and spray until just wet.
Spraying can be done at most times of the year that the plant is actively growing which is usually September through to April in WA. Spraying may not control the aerial tubers. Revisit the site 6-8 weeks after spraying to see what has happened and when a follow up spray is required
The leaves are hard to wet so adjuvants are usually used with herbicides.


Eradication strategies:

Repeat control measures before tubers start to form for a few years.
Try using a picloram based product and fluroxypyr.
Remove rootstock, rhizome and tubers.

Herbicide resistance:

It is very unlikely to get resistance as it produces no seed.

Biological Control:

Plectonycha correntina, a leaf feeding beetle, is being evaluated for the biological control of Madeira Vine

Related plants:

Ceylon or Malabar Spinach (Basella alba L. or B. rubra L.) are related species within the Basellaceae and cultivated as a vegetable in Australia and may be confused with Madeira Vine.
No plants in the same family have naturalised in Australia. It is in the same order as the Amaranthus and chickweeds.

Plants of similar appearance:

Muehlenbeckia adpressa is a native plant.
Lonicera japonica or Japanese Honeysuckle looks similar when not in flower.


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