Friday, May 21, 2010

Round-leaf Vine

Legnephora moorei
I’ve been growing a few of these local rainforest vines at home, and this one is starting to look very pretty, at a little under two years old. It has the potential to be a large vine - Wisteria sized, I think, so I’ll be interested to see whether I can confine it to this trellis and keep it looking pretty.
I do love those big round leaves.

While we often see the trunks of the vines in rainforest, we don’t usually know what they are, as they tend to reach for the canopy before spreading out their leaves. (I think this quality would make them good for covering shady pergolas.) We know they’re up there somewhere, though, as the distinctive leaves are common on rainforest paths.
On the plant, these leaves have a 10cm stem, but the old leaves on the ground are almost invariably stemless.

As they die, they turn black, with an ashy-grey back, before fading completely.

The leaves are easy to distinguish from the other common large leaf seen on rainforest paths - that of the stinging tree, by the very different pattern of the veins.

Stinging tree leaves can be pointed or rounded, and roughly the same size as those of the round-leaf vine. This leaf is from Dendrocnide excelsa, the giant stinging tree. They are said to be able to sting long after they fall from the tree, so are best left alone.

Here’s a handful of fruit from a round-leaf vine, which I picked up in February. You can see why some people call the plant “native grape”, but it’s a foolish name. The fruits look very like those of the genuine, edible, native grapes (Cissus species), but are said to be poisonous.
If you do feel tempted to play at “bush tucker man” and snack on fruits which look like grapes in the rainforest, squeeze some seeds out and look at them, first.
Cissus species have seeds which are clearly related to those of the grapes you buy in shops - teardrop shaped things designed to slip easily down the throat. They are relatively safe to eat, though the flesh does contain very small crystals which, in quantity, will irritate the throat. (As with all “bush tucker” it’s not sensible to give it to children.)
The allegedly poisonous seeds of the round-leaf vine are roughly disc-shaped, uncomfortable-looking things with sharp edges, which seem to be saying “don’t put this in your mouth”.
The fruits are pretty, though, and attract birds to the garden. They occur on female vines only. I have planted four of them so hope there’ll be at least one female amongst them.

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