Betel Vine

Piper betle
Piperaceae

The pepper family is a family of medicinal-ornamental cultivated novelties: baquina, black pepper, kava- kava, peperomias, and today’s highlight, betel leaf.

Don’t confuse betel leaf with betel nut, which comes from a palm, although the two are a combo chew in tropical Asia for a mild psycho-effect, much like coca leaf is in Peru, and khat in and around Somalia and the Arabian Peninsula.

 

Betel vine is one-plant pharmacy of bioactive compounds, spawning a history of traditional medicinal applications for purposes ranging from aphrodisiac to antiprotozoan. But beware dangerous side-effects, including reports of carcinogenicity. The plant is not of interest in today’s blog as herbal medicine, but rather as a garden vine.

It grows fast, in sun, in shade, and in between. In a garden bed where one side is shaded and the other is sunny, it seems to grow larger on the sunny side, big surprise. This is a strictly tropical species. It prefers moist well drained conditions, and will tolerate limited drought. I’ve seen the vine as a groundcover, but, warning, it climbs too, so cascading from a container might be best.

The flowers are tiny, in little white spikes, cute, but not showy.

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