Mikania cordata (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Mikania cordata (Burm.f.) B.L. Robinson

Protologue: Contrib. Gray Herb. 104: 65 (1934).
Family: Compositae
Chromosome number: 2n= unknown


Eupatorium cordatum Burm.f. (1768), Mikania volubilis (Vahl) Willd. (1803), M. scandens Hook.f. (1881), non (L.) Willd. (1803).

Vernacular names

  • Mile-a-minute (En)
  • Indonesia: brodjo lego (Javanese), hila hitu lama (Ambon), blukar (Sumatra)
  • Malaysia: ceroma, akar lupang, selaput tunggul
  • Philippines: bikas (Bagobo), detidid (Igorot), uoko (Bontok)
  • Thailand: khikaiyan.

Origin and geographic distribution

M. cordata is native to tropical Asia and Africa and is widespread throughout South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands.


Leaves of M. cordata constitute a highly palatable forage, especially to sheep. They are also used as a poultice for swellings (Taiwan), itches (Malaysia) and wounds (Indonesia). In South Africa it is used as a cure for snake and scorpion bites.


The DM digestibility is about 50% and N concentrations range from 2.6-3.4%, Ca concentrations from 1.5-1.9% and P concentrations from 0.6-0.9%. It has high concentrations of Cu, about 18 mg/kg. It has been reported from Malaysia that M. cordata contains phenolic or flavenoid substances that inhibit the growth of rubber, tomato and tropical kudzu ( Pueraria phaseoloides (Roxb.) Benth.), and depress nitrification in soils.

It can be an important weed in cropped land and areas under young plantation crops.


Scandent perennial herb, often forming a dense tangled mass. Stem subterete or irregularly angular, ribbed, up to 6 m × 2-3 mm, internodes 6-14 cm long, nodes thickened, sometimes with short hairs. Leaves cordate or triangular-ovate, 1-12 cm × 1-6 cm, base cordate or shortly contracted, margin crenate-dentate, sinuate or entire, apex acutely acuminate, subglabrous, glandularly spotted beneath petiole 1-8 cm long. Inflorescence composed of peduncled heads, combined into small dense corymbs, at the top of short, side branches and in the axils of leaves; peduncle of corymbs very variable in length; peduncle of heads up to 6 mm long; heads 6-9 mm × 1.5-2 mm, 4-flowered; involucre of 4 elliptical-oblong bracts; corolla campanulate, 5 mm long, yellowish-white, 5-6-lobed; style with 2 long exserted branches, each 2.5 mm long, white. Fruit a linear-oblongoid, 4-ribbed achene, 2-3 mm long, glandular, black-brown; pappus hairs 3-4 mm long, white to reddish.

M. cordata spreads by seed or by rooting at nodes which are in contact with soil. Flowering occurs throughout the year. Seeds are produced in large numbers and the pappus enables effective wind dispersal over long distances. With its rampant growth it can rapidly smother young tree crops and other plants, hence the common name "mile-a-minute". It can rapidly form a tangled mass to a depth of 0.6-1 m. If undisturbed, it often spreads in massive circular patterns.

This species was long considered to be conspecific with its allies in North America ( M. scandens (L.) Willd.) and in South America ( M. micrantha Kunth). Distinctive characters are:

  • M. scandens : heads 5-6 mm long; involucral bracts lanceolate-oblong, long-acuminate and very acute at apex; corolla purple; achene longer than 2 mm.
  • M. micrantha : heads 4-5 mm long; involucral bracts oblong-elliptical, shortly acute at apex; corolla white; achene less than 2 mm long.

In Malesia 4 forms of M. cordata have been distinguished, mainly based on leaf form, leaf indumentum and leaf margin characteristics. In West Africa 2 varieties have been distinguished, mainly based on peduncle length and length of involucral bracts.


M. cordata is adapted to hot, humid tropical environments with 1500 mm or more annual rainfall and plenty of sunlight, at altitudes ranging from sea-level to 2000 m or more. Hence it is commonly found in young secondary jungle, forest clearings, abandoned ground, secondary regrowth areas, ravines, mountain slopes, roadsides, watercourses, fallow lands, low-lying areas along streams and rivers and open plantations. However, it can also persist with reduced vigour in plantations. Although it may even be found under closed canopies of 4-5 year-old rubber and oil palm, it is markedly etiolated with little vigour. It is rarely found in 5-15 year-old plantations.


M. cordata can be a devastating weed in crops of tea, coconut, cocoa, rubber, oil palm, coffee, bananas and sugar cane, and can smother leguminous cover crops. Spraying with herbicides can reduce its vigour and spread.

It has been reported as being susceptible to parasitic growth of dodder, Cuscuta chinensis Lamk in Sri Lanka and C. australis R. Br. in Fiji and Malaysia.

It is very palatable to livestock, particularly to sheep. Where present, it is the first species to be eliminated when sheep graze pastures. It is equally acceptable when either grazed or cut and fed as a supplement to other forages. There are no records of it being used for hay or silage. Sheep should not be fed forages where it is the main component. Instances of abortion, death of newborn lambs and of older sheep have been recorded in rubber plantations where it comprised more than 50% of the diet. There is evidence that these problems relate to the high Cu concentrations in M. cordata. There is very little information about its productivity. Yields of 4 t/ha of DM have been measured in Mauritius. There are no records of animal production where it was the sole feed, but good animal production levels have consistently occurred in plantations where it has been an appreciable component of the understorey.

Genetic resources and breeding

It is unlikely that any germplasm collections of M. cordata are being maintained.


M. cordata is an aggressive forage of high acceptability to both large and small ruminants. Further study should be given to its agronomy and to feeding systems using this species so that its potential as forage can be better exploited, while at the same time aiding in the biological control of a serious weed.


  • Barnes, D.E. & Chandapallai, M.M., 1972. Common weeds of Malaysia and their control. Ansul (M) Sdn. Bhd. Kuala Lumpur. p. 93.
  • Devendra, C., 1979. Malaysian feedingstuffs. MARDI, Kuala Lumpur. p. 29.
  • Henderson, M.R., 1974. Malayan wild flowers 1. Dicotyledons. The Malayan Nature Society. Kuala Lumpur. p. 233.
  • Holm, L.G., Plucknett, D.L., Pancho, J.V. & Herberger, J.P., 1977. The world's worst weeds: distribution and biology. The East-West Center, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. pp. 320-327.
  • Koster, J.T., 1935. The Compositae of the Malay Archipelago. 11. Mikania. Blumea 1: 503-510.
  • Perry, L.M., 1980. Medicinal plants of east and southeast Asia: attributed properties and uses. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. p. 103.
  • Wong, R., 1964. Evidence for the presence of growth inhibitory substances in Mikania cordata (Burm.f.) B.L. Robinson. Journal of Rubber Research Institute of Malaya 18: 231-242.


C.P. Chen & Y.K. Chee