Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tape Vine

Stephania japonica
This little climber is locally very common, and one of the most characteristic plants of our local dry rainforest and vine scrubs. You often see it popping up on cleared land at Highfields, which lets us know that the original environment was not grassland or eucalypt woodland as it is now.
In a garden, the pretty shield-shaped leaves are reason enough to grow this little climber. They are “peltate”, meaning that the point at which the stalk joins the leaf is some distance in from its edge.
The greenish flowers are inconspicuous, but the little shiny little fruits on the female plants are very ornamental. Of course you would need to grow at least one plant of each sex to get this additional ornamentation. Old plants form a large woody tuber at the base, just below ground level. This is a water-storage organ, which helps the plant through dry times. (Don’t try to eat it – it may be poisonous.)
Where conditions are tough, the plants may die back in winter, regrowing when the weather warms up. This keeps them safe from frost damage. If plants become unattractive in autumn, all they need is to be cut back.
Tape vines sprawl across the ground where support is not available, preferring the dappled shade under trees, or a well-lit indoor situation .

At Carnarvon Gorge they grow under the casuarina trees by the creek. In places they are the only vegetation, and make a lovely picture on a background of rounded black stones and brown she-oak needles.

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