Diplocyclos palmatus

lollipop climber


Diplocyclos palmatus

(L.) C.Jeffrey 1990

pronounced: dip-loh-KY-kloss parl-MAH-tuh

(Cucurbitaceae — the squash family)

synonym — Bryonia palmata

L. 1753

pronounced: bry-OH-nee-uh parl-MAH-tuh

common names: lollipop climber, striped cucumber, native bryony

native 4Diplocyclos is derived from two Greek words, διπλοος (diploos), double, and κυκλος (kyklos), a ring, a wheel; palmatus is from παλαμη (palamé), the palm of the hand, referring to the palmate leaves. In the synonym, bryonia is from βρυωνη (bryoné), an ancient Greek name for a climbing plant.

Lollipop Climber is native to Australia, Malesia, PNG and tropical Africa, occurring mostly in the warmer monsoonal rainforests, in vine thickets and in disturbed areas of rainforest. It is also found in India and in parts of South Africa, where it is thought to have been introduced as an ornamental.

In Australia, it is found at altitudes from sea level to 1,000 m, in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Cape York Peninsula, north-eastern Queensland, and southwards as far as the upper Hastings River in NSW. This plant is one of those collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander during the voyage of the Endeavour. It was collected at the Endeavour River (Cooktown). The plants photographed are in the scrub near the Horseshoe Bay lagoon.

It is a slender, much-branched climber, perennial, with stems to about 6 m long, and with a diameter of not more than 2 cm. The leaves are simple, alternate, deeply palmately lobed usually with 5 major lobes, hispid above and pale and smooth beneath, and drawn out into a long acuminate tip at the apex. The leaf margins are irregularly toothed, and the leaves have an unpleasant odour when crushed. There are 2-branched tendrils, leaf-opposed. Petioles are 2 - 8 cm long.

The unisexual flowers are white to greenish-yellow. The flowers are found in small groups in the leaf axils. The male flowers are about 2 cm in diameter, on pedicels up to 2 cm long, the petals approximately 1 cm long, densely hairy on the inner surface. There are 2 bilocular anthers, and one unilocular. The locules are bent and twisted. The female flowers are a little smaller, about 1.5 cm in diameter, with the petals about 8 mm long. They are also hairy on the inner surface. There are 3 staminodes; the style is about 3 mm long, branching into 2 stigmas. Their pedicels are short, only up to about 5 mm in length. While the male flowers in an axil always seem to be in groups, sometimes the female flowers are solitary.

The fruits, usually appearing here in June or July, are ovoid to ellipsoid, or almost globose, 2 – 3 cm by 1.5 – 3 cm. They are glabrous, red with white longitudinal stripes, and have irregular longitudinal markings. The seeds, usually 6 – 10 of them per fruit, are obovate, sometimes very irregularly shaped, 5 – 8 mm long.

The larvae of the Cacao Armyworm Tiracola plagiata feed on the leaves.

dangerous 2All parts of the plant are toxic in large quantities. The fruits have been suspected of causing illness and death in children. The likeness of the fruits to lollipops make them very attractive to small children.

In India, the leaves are used medicinally, in small quantities, for the treatment of rheumatic pain, coughs, flatulence, and various skin diseases. In parts of South Africa, the vine has become a noxious weed. It has invaded a variety of habitat types such as forests and flood plains, where it forms very thick infestations, and threatens native vegetation. It has also been reported as spreading in the wild in India.


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 Horseshoe Bay 2013, 2014
Page last updated 13th December 2018