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Basella alba 'Rubra'


Basella alba 'Rubra'

Family Name: Basellaceae
Synonyms: Basella alba var. rubra, Basella rubra
Common Name: Red Ceylon Spinach, Red-stemmed Malabar Spinach, Red Indian Spinach, Red Vine Spinach, Ang Chai, Gendola, Remayong, 红藤菜, 落葵, 紫落葵, 紫软藤, 紫背藤菜, 潺菜


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Infraspecific Epithet
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Climber, Vine & Liana, Creeper
Lifespan (in Singapore) Semi-Annual / Annual-Like, Perennial, Annual
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Leggy
Maximum Height 3.5 m to 10 m
Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width 10 m


Native Distribution Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malesia, New Guinea
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Perennial herbaceous vine, creeping or climbing up to 10 m. 
Foliage Leaves green, oval, glossy and prominently veined.
Stems Stems and petioles beetroot-red to purple and succulent.
Flowers Flowers small and insignificant, produced in terminal or axillary spikes. 
Fruit Fruits are one-seeded indehiscent berries with persistent fleshy calyxes, ripening to purplish-black and containing purple juice, falling off readily from parent plant for self-seeding.
Others - Plant Morphology Despite common names, the foliar resemblance and similar usage in food, plant is not a true spinach. Related to and differentiated from Basella alba, which has darker green leaves, green stems and white flowers.Fast-growing and grown in economic or vegetable gardens for food and as ornamental. Prefers moist, well-drained, rich loamy soils of pH 4.5 - 7.0. Use high-nitrogen fertilizer to speed up growth. Stems can be allowed to sprawl across ground or supported with trellises to encourage climbing. Minimize fungal diseases in leaves by improving air circulation or increasing amount of light. Propagate by seeds or stem cuttings - use stems around 20 cm long and trim large leaves to reduce transpiration loss before planting. If grown from seed, a crop can be harvested within 70 days.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Leaves, Edible Stems
Food (Herb and Spice) (Fruit & Vegetable): Young leaves and stems eaten raw in salads, as steamed vegetable, or used as thickening agent in stews and soups. Cooked leaves taste mildly of spinach, and are mucilaginous with slightly slippery texture. Rich in vitamins A and C, as well as iron, calcium and soluble fibre. Leaves can be infused in hot water to make a tea substitute. Purplish sap from fruits used as food colouring in jellies, pastries and sweets. Adding lemon juice intensifies the purple colour. Leaves and stems mildly laxative. 
Medicinal: Pulped leaves used as poultice to treat boils and sores. Cooked roots used to relieve diarrhoea, or as paste for swellings. Flowers used as antidote for poisoning. Juice from berries applied as eye-drops for conjunctivitis, and traditionally used in China to treat blood diseases. 
Others: Cultivated for centuries in China for red dye extacted from berries, which was used as ink for seals by court officials, and as facial rouge by women. Leaves also fed to livestock to improve milk production.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Stems, Ornamental Foliage
Landscape Uses Container Planting, Vertical Greenery / Green Wall
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden
Plant & Rootzone Preference or Tolerance Remarks Optimal soil pH 4.5 - 7.0. Plants said to grow slowly in alkaline soils.

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird Attracting

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade, Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Well-Drained Soils
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Diseases Susceptible to root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.). May suffer from necrotic leaf spots caused by Cercospora basellae and Acrothecium basellae.
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting
Propagation Method Remarks Use stems of around 20cm length for rooting.


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green, Red
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth, Glossy / Shiny, Raised / Sunken Veins
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Oval)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Cuneate
Typical Foliar Area Microphyll ( 2.25cm2 - 20.25 cm2 )

Non - Foliar and Storage

Stem Type & Modification Herbaceous
Root Type Underground (Fibrous Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Pink, Purple, Red
Inflorescence Type Spike
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Black, Purple
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Indehiscent Dry Fruit

Image Repository



Master ID 26
Species ID 1322
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 06 July 2022.

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