Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Hernandia nymphaeifolia (C.Presl) Kubitzki

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
Click/tap on images to enlarge
Fruit. © Australian Plant Image Index (APII). Photographer: M. Fagg.
Fruit, three views and longitudinal section. © W. T. Cooper
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, hypogeal germination. © CSIRO

Kubitzki, K. (1969) Botanische Jahrbucher 90 89: 272.

Common name

Hernandia; Sea Hearse


White granular and brown fibrous stripes usually visible in the outer blaze. Bark pale brown.


Petiole often pink where it joins the twig and also at its junction with the leaf blade. Leaf blades about 7-33 x 6-29 cm. Petioles about 5-17 cm long.


Perianth outer surface puberulous. Tepals about 5 mm long. Anther valves opening like doors, i.e. on vertical hinges. Ovary in the female flower enclosed in a truncate involucre. Stigma irregularly shaped.


Fruits enclosed in an inflated envelope about 3.5-4 cm long. Fruits +/- globular, about 25 x 20 mm, somewhat inflated and vertically ribbed, constricted below the apex, endocarp or testa quite hard and tough.


Usually 2-4 cataphylls produced before the first true leaves. First pair of true leaves ovate to cordate. At the tenth leaf stage: leaves peltate, apex acuminate, base rounded, upper surface glabrous, underside puberulous; petiole puberulous at least towards the apex, about as long as the leaf blade. Seed germination time 23 to 64 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in NT, CYP and NEQ with an altitudinal range of a few metres above sea level. Grows on beaches, rocky shorelines and in beach forest. Also occurs in East Africa, India, SE Asia, Malesia and the Pacific islands.

Natural History & Notes

This species may have medicinal properties. Leaf and stem material of this species was active against tumor cell cultures. Collins et al. (1990).

The leaves, bark and stem of this species are regarded as a contraceptive. Cribb (1981).

Biasolettia nymphaeifolia Presl, Rel. Haenk. 2: 141(1835), Type: Mariana Islands, Guam, T.P.X. Haenke. Holo: PR Fide A.C. Smith, Flora Vitiensis Nova 2: 111 (1981). Hernandia peltata Meisn., Prodromus 15(1): 263(1864), Type: Asia (Staunton! Thwait. n. 2914), Malesia, Philippin., Pacific Islands (Wallich n. 7811. A.) Lecto:C-DC Iso: B, Bm, G, L, W. Fide Kubitzki (1969).
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