Singapore Government Logo

A Singapore Government Agency Website

Basella alba


Basella alba

Family Name: Basellaceae
Common Name: Indian Spinach, Ceylon Spinach, 落葵, 帝皇苗, 木耳菜


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Climber, Creeper
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 2 m to 6 m


Native Distribution Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malesia, New Guinea
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Non-native (Horticultural / Cultivated Only)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Short-lived perennial creeping or climbing vine with stems up to 2-6 m long.
Foliage Leaves are ovate to cordate (egg-shaped to heart-shaped) with a slightly wavy leaf margin (5-15 cm long, 4-10 cm wide). They have a thick cuticle (waxy, protective outer layer).
Stems Green or purplish stems are hairless, thin and twining. The plant forms runners which take root and form new plants.
Flowers Inconspicuous, egg-shaped flowers (3-4 mm long) are arranged in a spike inflorescence. The bisexual flowers have 3 styles (female reproductive part) and 5 stamens (male, pollen-bearing part).
Fruit Purplish black, round to slightly flattened fruits are fleshy and considered a pseudo-berry (4-7 mm long, 5-10 mm wide).
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Leaves, Edible Stems
Food (Fruit or Vegetable): The leaves and stem tips are eaten cooked or raw as a vegetable in many countries.
Medicinal: In Chinese folk medicine, leaves and stems are used as laxative, while flowers are used as poison antidotes. In Javanese folk medicine, the fruit is used to treat conjunctivitis, while roots are used to treat diarrhoea and swellings.

Landscaping Features

Landscape Uses Trellis / Arbour / Pergola, Hedge / Screening, Container Planting
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird-Attracting

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Rootzone Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Easy to Grow
Diseases This species is seldom attacked by diseases.
Pest(s) Nematodes
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting
Seed / Spore Germination Duration 7 days


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Green
Young Flush Texture(s) Smooth
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate, Cordate)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire - Wavy / Undulate
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Rounded / Obtuse, Cordate

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) White, Purple, Pink
Flower Texture(s) Smooth
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary
Inflorescence Type Spike

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Purple, Black


References Siemonsma, J.S. and Piluek, K. (Editors). 1994. Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA) No 8. Vegetables. Bogor, Indonesia: Prosea Foundation.

Image Repository



Master ID 31579
Species ID 5978
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.

You may also like