Monday, October 14, 2013

Narrow-leaf Hop Bush

Dodonaea viscosa subsp. angustifolia

This sturdy plant is looking pretty in the wild, at present, with its coloured hop-like seed capsules. We find it in on ridges and hillsides in our local black soil areas.
Dodonaea viscosa is a large and very variable genus with seven subspecies, at least three of which grow on the Darling Downs. The various subspecies occur naturally from Africa (where it is known as “sand olive”) through India, Australia and many Pacific islands, to tropical America. The one most often sold in nurseries (often incorrectly labelled “native”) is a purple leaved variety of Dodonaea viscosa subsp. viscosa from New Zealand.
We have three subspecies on the Darling Downs, and they all have the typical “viscose” (shiny-sticky) leaves of the species.

This narrow-leafed subspecies is one of the hardiest to drought, and makes a good garden plant. The showy hops  grow only on the female plants, and many growers prefer to produce their plants from cuttings so as to be sure of having females. They are wind pollinated, and female plants have been known to receive pollen from male plants as much as two kilometres away. They do produce capsules even if not pollinated, but of course in that case they are empty of seeds.
If grown as seedlings, these rather slender plants might be best planted in close groups, which can be thinned down as they mature to flowering age and reveal their sex.
Some growers consider that putting a little mother soil from around a parent plant produces healthier plants. This practice inoculates the soil with soil fungus, and it may be that hop bushes, like many other Australian plants, grow better in association with their favourite fungus. This is something to consider if you are collecting seed, which can be done over the next month or so.

(For more on Dodonaea species, use the white search box at top left of page.)

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