Friday, August 7, 2009

Monkey Rope

Parsonsia straminea
The monkey rope vine is probably the most common vine in our district. It’s not a showy plant, but its virtue (apart from being one of our most characteristic natives) is of being a very tough green-leafed vine which would cover trellises and create shady pergolas with no fuss at all. Vines are typically rainforest plants. Many of our locals are also at home in dry rainforests. Few of them, however, are really happy to be growing in full sun, unperturbed by our district’s frosts and droughts.
This well-known old vine is a landmark at Highfields. It is in a paddock on the eastern side of the highway, just north of the Danish Flower Art shop.
Who knows how old it is - but it would certainly have been there long before white settlers appeared on the Darling Downs.
It would have begun life, as Parsonsias do, in a spot where it was lightly shaded by surrounding trees. It began to climb a tree trunk - perhaps on a long-vanished tree - using the little roots it put out at each node, and making a pretty pattern with its paired leaves.
When it got high enough to find some branches, it gave up the root-climbing habit, and began to climb by twining its stems around the branches instead.

The shiny leaves are so attractive and the plant so trouble-free and easy to grow that it should be one of our local garden staples. Monkey ropes can be found on all sorts of soils, from poorly drained clay soils and alluvial river flats to stony hillsides.
The flowers occur throughout the year. The flowers are sparse, small and inconspicuous, but have a lovely perfume. They attract butterflies, some of which also breed on the leaves.
The woody, pencil-shaped seed follicles turn brown as they ripen, and split open to release a cloud of little seeds, which float away on their little brown silk parachutes.

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