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Balloon vine is a long-lived perennial climbing vine reaching up to 10m high. It has light green, coarsely toothed or lobed leaves that grow up to 16cm long, a ribbed stem and fragrant white flowers with four petals that occur in clusters. The stems, flower stalks and fruits are covered in short bristly yellow hairs, and tendrils fall from the base of the flower stalk. The wind and water dispersed seed pods (fruits) of the vine are formed by 4-8cm long inflated membranous capsules that are light green and papery and dry to straw-coloured in the autumn. Each seed pod contains three round black seeds with an oblong to heart-shaped spot.
It prefers moist areas along river edges, forest margins and road sides, and will tolerate a variety of soil types. The species may move from river or creek banks into nearby forest, particularly if there has been some disturbance, and it may enter new areas following natural events that result in exposed or disturbed land.
Balloon vine is a vigorous canopy climber that will climb up into trees or spread at ground level, blanketing other vegetation with the ability to shade it out or smother it completely. Such vines are sometimes regarded as 'transformer' species due to their ability to significantly alter the ecosystem they inhabit and inhibit recolonisation by native species.