Telosma Cordata: Cowslip Creeper Vine and Its Edible Flowers

Updated on December 12, 2019
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Precy loves to write about many topics, including how to grow some of the most wonderful plants in the world.

A flowering telosma cordata vine.
A flowering telosma cordata vine. | Source

A member of the milkweed family, Telosma cordata is a creeper—a twining vine that you may want to consider adding to your garden. Native to China and also known as Tonkin jasmine, it displays showy clusters of flowers that are both fragrant and edible (they are in fact used in many Asian dishes).

Tonkin jasmine can be a nice shade provider if you have this growing in a trellis in your garden area. Adding this in an entryway on an arbor doesn't just beautify the area, but it's also a nice way to enjoy the rich fragrance and the flowers produced.

The Leaves

Telosma cordata can creep up to 16 feet. Both the leaves and the twining vine are green, but as the plant ages, the vine turns to brown.

The green leaves are heart-shaped and pointy at the tip. Although they grow in pairs, it isn't uncommon to see four pairs of leaves on a stem. If you want your Tonkin jasmine or sabiddukong vine to creep on a certain spot, keep an eye on it. A young vine may want to explore around and climb, even on strings. The green, smooth leaves are about 2–4 inches long, with the veins visible.

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Telosma cordata leaves.The leaves of Tonkin jasmine, or cowslip creeper, are green and smooth to the touch.Here is a young shoot that I twice guided back in the trellis, but it keeps coming back up here.
Telosma cordata leaves.
Telosma cordata leaves. | Source
The leaves of Tonkin jasmine, or cowslip creeper, are green and smooth to the touch.
The leaves of Tonkin jasmine, or cowslip creeper, are green and smooth to the touch. | Source
Here is a young shoot that I twice guided back in the trellis, but it keeps coming back up here.
Here is a young shoot that I twice guided back in the trellis, but it keeps coming back up here. | Source

The Flowers

The flowers usually appear in the nodes where the leaves are. They start off green, in clusters consisting of 10 to more than 30 flowers that take weeks to fully develop and open. As the flower buds develop and bloom from late spring to autumn, they change from green to yellow.

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Young developing buds of cowslip creeper.And here's another cluster consisting of seven visible buds from this side. A young cluster of Tonkin jasmine flowers. The plant is known as sabiddukong by the Ilocanos.Cowslip creeper on a trellis. These are the second batch in the month of September. These clusters started opening late August.
Young developing buds of cowslip creeper.
Young developing buds of cowslip creeper. | Source
And here's another cluster consisting of seven visible buds from this side.
And here's another cluster consisting of seven visible buds from this side. | Source
A young cluster of Tonkin jasmine flowers. The plant is known as sabiddukong by the Ilocanos.
A young cluster of Tonkin jasmine flowers. The plant is known as sabiddukong by the Ilocanos. | Source
Cowslip creeper on a trellis. These are the second batch in the month of September. These clusters started opening late August.
Cowslip creeper on a trellis. These are the second batch in the month of September. These clusters started opening late August. | Source

The flowers also don't all bloom at the same time but rather in bunches, and the rest of the flowers follow. As the Tonkin jasmine flower opens, it creates a five star-like shape with the five yellow petals. While the inside of each petal is a beautiful yellow, the top portion and the base are yellowish to greenish in color. Flowers of Tonkin jasmine tend to be strongly fragrant at night.

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Telosma cordata buds continuously growing. Here are the flowers opening. As they open, the petals are yellow-green to yellow, while the base remains green. Up close with a Telosma cordata flower.
Telosma cordata buds continuously growing.
Telosma cordata buds continuously growing. | Source
Here are the flowers opening. As they open, the petals are yellow-green to yellow, while the base remains green.
Here are the flowers opening. As they open, the petals are yellow-green to yellow, while the base remains green. | Source
Up close with a Telosma cordata flower.
Up close with a Telosma cordata flower. | Source

Other Names for Telosma Cordata

Common Names
Country
Sabiddukong/Sabidukong
Philippines (Ilocano)
Cowslip creeper
United States
Yea lai xiang
China
Hoa thien ly
Vietnam
Kodi sambangi
Tamil
Bagbagkong
Philippines
Dukep
Philippines (Ilocano)
Pakalana
Hawaii
Parfum nocturne
France
Alapaala
Telugu
These are some other names telosma cordata is known by.

Growing Cowslip Creeper, Tonkin Jasmine, or Pakalana Vine

When it comes to growing sabiddukong or Tonkin jasmine, it is either done so from seeds or cuttings in fertile, well-drained soil where it gets enough sunlight. Water the plant generously, keeping the soil moist.

Ours started off from seeds in a container. When the weather gets cold or chilly during winter season, the vine slows in growth or becomes dormant but resumes growing when the weather gets hot. New and young shoots start showing up again during spring season. Clusters of flowers start showing up during spring to fall season. In the Philippines, it is during the rainy seasons that this vine produces flowers.

Cowslip creeper fruit is green with pointy ends. As the fruit matures, it turns brown in color, with a lot of brown seeds inside that are smooth and flat.

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A stem with two young clusters climbing on the rope of its trellis.Flowers by the nodes.
A stem with two young clusters climbing on the rope of its trellis.
A stem with two young clusters climbing on the rope of its trellis. | Source
Flowers by the nodes.
Flowers by the nodes. | Source

Consumption, Dishes, and Photos

Telosma cordata flowers are consumed and used in dishes from countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, China, and India.

In the Philippines, the clusters of flowers are enjoyed along with other vegetables in the Ilocano dishes pinakbet and dinengdeng. It can also be cooked for breakfast with beaten eggs in placed of eggplant in the Filipino dish tortang talong, or eggplant omelette. It is also cooked with squash, sautéed or cooked in coconut milk.

It also goes well with mung beans either with or without glass noodles. And for those who love long beans, consider adobo (cooked with vinegar and soy sauce). It's worth a try as well, as the two are a good pair too.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Flowers of Tonkin jasmine (telosma cordata) cooked with sardines along with okra.The edible flowers cooked with glass noodles. The flowers are known as sabiddukong by the Ilocanos. Pollock fillet with seasoned bread crumbs wrapped in cabbage. The flowers were used as garnish.
Flowers of Tonkin jasmine (telosma cordata) cooked with sardines along with okra.
Flowers of Tonkin jasmine (telosma cordata) cooked with sardines along with okra. | Source
The edible flowers cooked with glass noodles. The flowers are known as sabiddukong by the Ilocanos.
The edible flowers cooked with glass noodles. The flowers are known as sabiddukong by the Ilocanos. | Source
Pollock fillet with seasoned bread crumbs wrapped in cabbage. The flowers were used as garnish.
Pollock fillet with seasoned bread crumbs wrapped in cabbage. The flowers were used as garnish. | Source

While some go the easy route of cooking the flowers and enjoying these simply stir-fried with oyster sauce, some also make soup such as egg soup with the flowers of telosma cordata as an ingredient. In Thai cuisine, the flowers of cowslip creeper are called for in a dish with fried vermicelli with mushrooms, seasoned with oyster sauce and light soy sauce.

Not only are the flowers consumed, but the fruits as well. While still not matured, the fruits of cowslip creeper vine are simply boiled and eaten. It is also cooked along with taro leaves in coconut milk. And most likely it will go well with other veggies in other dishes too. Hopefully I will be able to share a dish using the fruit or even a photo of my own one day once our own vine produces fruits.

These edible flowers can also be enjoyed sautéed.
These edible flowers can also be enjoyed sautéed. | Source

Health Benefits

Including telosma cordata in dishes isn't only delectable, it also gives the body A and C vitamins, proteins, and folic acid. Oil made from telosma cordata is used in treating conjunctivitis as well as in lowering fatigue.

Did You Know?

The fragrant blooms are captivating, and that is probably why the flowers are used in making leis in Hawaii. With the scent it emits, it was found that geraniol is the active compound in the fragrance of telosma cordata flowers and is also present in roses.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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