Coral vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a flowering plant belonging to the buckwheat family (scientific name Polygonaceae). This perennial plant is native to Mexico and is also a common species in places like Bahamas, Jamaica, Florida and also Latin America. In addition, this species is also found in many places in Africa. This herb was introduced to Egypt by 1805. Today, this species is found growing naturally in almost 98% places in the Pacific Islands, including the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Cook Island, French Polynesia, Guam, Fiji, Galapagos Islands, Palau, Marshall Islands, Picairn Island, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines and Tonga. Besides, coral vine is also found in nearly all the Caribbean islands.
The genetic name of the plant Antigon is a Greek term denoting opposite angle and think elbow, which refers to the blossoming arrangement of the plants belonging to this genus. The species name Leptopus is basically a Greek/Latin mess that has been derived from the Greek term Leptos denoting delicate or thin. While lepta means a pocket change; lepto denotes moment. The genus Antigonon comprises anything between four to eight species. The second species - A. gautenalense grows in south Florida. Plants of this species have hairy stems and produces larger leaves.
The leaves and the flowers of Antigonon leptopus are the main parts that are used for therapeutic purposes as they offer several health benefits. The flowers and leaves of this plant are effective for curing cold and coughs as well as diabetes. The roots of these plants have tubers and they can be cooked and consumed as a vegetable.
Antigonon leptopus is a climbing vine that grows rapidly holding on to adjacent objects with its tendrils. These vines can often reach a length of about 25 feet or even more.
The leaves of coral vine are heart-shaped (cordate) and sometimes they may even be triangular. These leaves measure anything between 2½ cm and 7½ cm in length. The flowers appear in clusters down the rachis and are borne in panicles. Antigonon leptopus plants are in blossom from spring to autumn. The flowers are either white or pink hued. Underground, the plants form tubers as well as large rootstocks. This plant produces profuse number of seeds that float on water. A wide variety of birds and animals, including raccoons, pigs and birds, eat the fruits and disperse the seeds. In case the plants are damaged by frost or cut back, the tubers can re-sprout after a period.
Deer, sheep, raccoon, pigs and birds love to eat the ripened seeds and other parts of coral vine. Even butterflies and bees like this plant because more than 41.6% of its flowers remain open at a particular time. Plants of this species can reproduce through the tubers, which is edible and grows larger as the plant matures. This plant grows well in marshy areas, yards, fence rows, disturbed ground and even pinewoods. Coral vines climb by means of their tendrils and have a tendency to overpower what it holds to ascend.
If you thought that coral vine is another invasive plant, you ought to know that this species has several therapeutic properties too. Consuming an extract of the plants leaves and flowers helps to hold back lipid peroxidation (oxidative degradation of lipids). In addition, the plant possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic properties. A hot tea prepared from the parts of the vine that are above the ground helps to provide relief from the symptoms associated with cold and flu. A tea prepared with the leaf of this plant is also used to cure blood pressure and diabetes. When cooked, the roots have a nutty flavour and are used in the kitchen for this purpose. Some people also dip the flowers and leaves of coral vine in flour, fry them and serve them with pasta. The flowers are often mixed into omelette, while the edible seeds can be roasted, winnowed and then pounded for use like flour.
Flowers, leaves, tubers.
Coral vine is used for multiple purposes, including therapeutic and food. This herb possesses several therapeutic properties. A tea made from the coral vine's aerial parts is used to cure common cold and also provide relief from pain. The aerial parts of coral vine are collected and dried and later used to prepare a hot tea for curing flu and sore throat.
Findings of several studies have shown that the aerial parts of coral vine can be effective in treating cold, diabetes, reduce swellings, healing wounds and also for providing relief from pain. In addition, the tea can also be used in the form of a heart tonic. An extract of the leaves and flowers of this plant has the ability to slow down the process of lipid peroxidation. It has been established that this plant possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic properties.
In ancient times, the native inhabitants of Baja California prepared coral vine seeds in a way like we prepare popcorns today and consumed it. People roasted the seeds of this plant by placing the seeds in a flat shaped basket, which was made with flexible twigs shredded into strips and woven together to prepare a flat surface. They placed live charcoals on the seeds and shook the basket with both hands so that the coals could roast the seeds properly, but without damaging the basket itself. After toasting the seeds, they removed the burnt-out charcoals. During this process, some seeds burst open revealing a white edible substance.
Later, they separated the seeds from the husks and tossed the seeds dexterously in the air along with the basket in the same manner in which people in Spain winnow wheat. Subsequently, the roasted seeds are pulverized and the resultant meal consumed by the aboriginal people of Baja California. On the other hand, they also boiled the seeds in water and to prepare fried cakes.
The flowers of coral vines are edible and used in salads. In addition, they are sliced and mixed with omelette. The tubers of this plant are large and may weigh as much as 10 pounds. In several places, people eat the tubers as a vegetable. People in Thailand dry the leaves of coral vine and serve them with a variety of noodles.
Coral vine (Antigonon leptopus) has a preference for fertile and well-drained soil and to grow in full sunlight. If the soil contains excessive nitrogen, it will result in pitiable growth of the plant and also poor flowering. This plant produces seeds profusely and they are dispersed by wild animals and birds by water. Often, it has been found that this plant escaped cultivation. Coral vine grows perfectly well on disturbed ground and can adapt itself well in dry coral cliffs where there is scant soil. It has the ability to endure drought. When there is a drought, the plant defoliates and grows again robustly after rain. During the wet season, coral vine can actually smother the native plants by outgrowing other vines and smaller trees growing in the vicinity. During the dry season, the leaves of this plant dries up and fall - thereby providing fuel for fires that often damage their vicinity.
Propagating coral vine is quite easy. Ideally, propagation is done by dividing the plant's underground tubers in the winter months. Coral vine can also be propagated by removing its suckers, as it is a suckering plant. Moreover, stems of the plant that come in contact with the ground will also grow roots and develop into new plants.