There is a plant that one can find growing in the medicinal plant section of some community gardens. It is commonly called the “four-angled vine” due to the distinctive square-shaped stems that the plant possesses. It is botanically known as Cissus quadrangularis and even the specific name indicated the plant’s squarish stems! Interestingly, it is a member of the grape family, Vitaceae. The plant produces tendrils that help it to grasp onto any support it come in close contact with to help it climb.
During my recent visit to Oh Chin Huat Hydroponic Farm at Bah Soon Pah Road, I saw their rather mature C. quadrangularis vine fruiting. The fruits that are borne on a bunch are tiny and red in colour. They are said to turn black when they mature and ripen later on. I did not managed to catch a glimpse of any opened flowers on the vine though. Many that I saw have passed the anthesis stage and have faded. Flowers of C. quadrangularis are said to be sweetly-scented.
Only gardeners who know the uses for this plant grow it. In Singapore, C. quadrangularis is grown mainly for its use for the treatment of haemorrhoids where elderly males are reported to cut a segment of the stem into small bits and then swallowing them. I am not sure how safe and effective this treatment would be. Please countercheck with a qualified practitioner before attempting to self-medicate!
From PROSEA, it was documented that in Java, the leaves or young stems are applied for maturation of boils, and to cure wounds and burns, also for saddle sores on horses. The crushed leaves or the juice from the stem are applied for rheumatism and to broken bones, to ease the pain.
In India, the pulped stem is given in asthma, and the powdered root is considered to be a specific in the treatment of fractured bones. The powdered dry roots are used for indigestion.
The plant also has food uses in southern India and Sri Lanka where the green stems are fried or curried before consumption. The ash of the plant is used as a substitute for baking powder.
For those of us who do not know or want to use C. quadrangularis as a medicinal or food plant, you can still grow it as an interesting houseplant at home due to its squarish stems. It is quite an easy plant to grow as it is relatively fuss-free, free from pests and diseases and slow-growing.
All this plant needs is a location where it can receive some sunshine for 6 hours daily and grown inside well draining soil. Keep it on the drier side as the plant can rot away if overwatered. It is easily propagated from stem-cuttings.
It can be difficult to find this plant on sale in local nurseries. One can proceed to Oh Chin Huat Hydroponic Farm to buy a cutting if one is in the vicinty. Otherwise, if one spots a vine growing in a community garden, do try to ask for a cutting or pay the community gardener a nominal sum to get one. Please do not cut a segment without permission!