Platycodon (Balloon Flower; Chinese Bellflower; Japanese Bellflower)
Platycodon grandiflorus, the sole species in the genus Platycodon, is a herbaceous perennial in the family Campanulaceae, native to areas of East Asia.
It is also known as the “Balloon Flower”, due to its balloon-like buds that burst open into large and beautiful blossoms.
When fully opened, the flower more closely resembles a star. It has a simple, but pretty blossom with five pointed petals that surround a star-like pistil.
It attracts butterflies and is a magnet for birds.
The scientific name comes from the Greek words “platys”, which means “broad” and “kodon”, meaning “a bell”, in reference to the shape of the corolla.
It is also known as “Balloon Flower”, in reference to the balloon-shaped flower buds.
Platycodon is a symbol of friendship.
It can also symbolize endless love and honesty.
Interesting facts about Platycodon:
Platycodon has been used in Eastern traditional medicine since ancient times.
The wide range of benefits that can be gained by using this plant are based on the volatile active ingredients found in the root. Many of these chemicals, such as saponins, phytosterol, inulin, glucose and betulic acid, have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. The plant is used to treat cold, cough, sore throat, stomach problems, chest congestion, hypertension and diabetes. It is widely used in treatment of respiratory ailments, such as pleurisy, bronchitis, asthma and laryngitis. Furthermore, it can also be used to reduce pain, boost the immune system and eliminate parasites.
In China, this flower is used in traditional medicinal preparations. It has a history of herbal use in China going back over 2000 years.
In Japan, the Balloon Flower, which is called “kikyo”, is a very popular plant. Kikyo is considered one of Japan’s “Seven Flowers of Autumn”, the others being Lespedeza thunbergii or Bush Clover (hagi), Miscanthus sinensis or Japanese Silver Grass (susuki), Pueraria Lobata or Japanese arrowroot (kuzu), Dianthus superbus (nadeshiko), Patrinia scabiosifolia or Golden Lace Flower (ominaeshi), Eupatorium fortunei or Thoroughwort (fujibakama). The Seven Flowers of Autumn have always been a popular topic in haiku and other Japanese literature. In the Heian Period (794 -1185), these flowers were common in the gardens of the aristocracy.
Kikyo, meaning “pentagram”, is an important symbol in Taoism because each of the five petals represents the five elements of the Tao – wood, water, fire, metal and earth.
It was also a symbol of the medieval Japanese onmyoji Abe no Seimei. Onmyoji were regarded as specialists in magic and divination.
In Korea, Balloon Flower has become a well loved ingredient to many dishes.