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Eustrephus latifolius R.Br. 1810
pronounced: YOO-stref-uss lat-ee-FOH-lee-uss
(Asparagaceae – the asparagus family)
common names: Wombat Berry Vine, Orange-vine
This poor plant must be rather confused as to which family it belongs. As well as in Asparagaceae, I have also seen it placed in Laxmanniaceae, Phileseaceae, Luzuriagaceae and Smilaceae.The genus name Eustrephus is derived from two Greek words, ευ (eu), good, and στρεφω (strepho), to twist; the specific latifolius is from the Latin latus, wide, and folium, a leaf. This is the only species in the genus.
Robert Brown described the plant in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1809. It is native to Malesia, the Pacific Islands, and eastern Australia. In Australia, it is found mostly east of the Great Dividing Range right down the eastern coast from Cape York to Victoria. It occurs in sclerophyll forest, woodlands, heathland, gallery forests and on the edge of the rainforest. It is usually a reasonably vigorous twining plant, but also occurs sometimes as a scrambling ground cover.
The leaves are lanceolate, up to about 10 cm or a little more in length and up to about 3.5 cm in width, stalkless, bright green and shiny, with conspicuous parallel longitudinal veins. They are grooved on the upper surface.
The flowers are about 1.5 cm in diameter, occurring in small clusters in the upper leaf axils. They are pale pink to mauve, or white. The flower stalks are 2–2.5 cm long, part pedicel and part peduncle; the 3 sepals are ovate to elliptic, about 7–8 mm long; the 3 petals are also ovate to elliptic, about 7 mm long, the margins fringed with hairs. There are 6 stamens.
The fruit is a capsule of 1 cm or more in diameter, changing colour from green to yellow to orange as it ripens. The fruit is edible, but hardly worth the bother – it has very little flesh, and lots (6–18) of black waxy seeds with white arils. It splits when ripe, to show the seeds.
The roots bear small tubers up to about 3 cm long with juicy flesh. They are sweet and edible, and usually baked before being eaten, although they are sometimes eaten raw.
Eating a small quantity of the seeds was a traditional indigenous cure for constipation; but more than a few seeds will cause diarrhoea.
The seeds germinate readily if you wish to grow the vine. It is hardy, and will grow in sun or shade, but probably does best in a semi-shaded situation. It does well on a fence, and can also be grown on established trees.
The caterpillars of several Lepidoptera feed on the plant, including
• the Four Eyes or Ivy Leafroller Cryptoptila immersana;
• the moth Phelotis cognata;
• the moth Scioglyptis lyciaria, and
• the Lacy Emerald Anisozyga insperata.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in the Gustav Creek vine forest and the remnant rainforest in Nelly Bay, 2013-2015
Page last updated 18th March 2018