Telosma Cordata: Cowslip Creeper Vine and Its Edible Flowers

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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.

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.

Young developing buds of cowslip creeper.

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.

Telosma cordata buds continuously growing.

Other Names for Telosma Cordata

These are some other names telosma cordata is known by.

Common NamesCountry


Philippines (Ilocano)

Cowslip creeper

United States

Yea lai xiang


Hoa thien ly


Kodi sambangi





Philippines (Ilocano)



Parfum nocturne




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.

A stem with two young clusters climbing on the rope of its trellis.

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.

Flowers of Tonkin jasmine (telosma cordata) cooked with sardines along with okra.

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.

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.

Watch the video: The Chinese violet or Telosma cordata plant

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