Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Hibiscus vitifolius L.

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Leaves and Flowers. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO

Linnaeus, C. (1753) Species Plantarum : 696 (1753). Type: Herb. Hermann, Vol. 4, fol. 39, Linn. n. 265; lecto: BM. Fide Brenan & Excell (1958) Bol. Soc. Brot. II, 32.

Common name

Tropical Fanleaf


Usually flowers and fruits as a herb but can grow into a shrub about 1 m tall.


Leaf blades very variable, about 5-14 x 4.5-14 cm, three or 5-lobed. Both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf blade clothed in stellate or 3-armed hairs. Petioles and twigs clothed mainly in simple hairs. Twig bark strong and fibrous when stripped.


Pedicel about 15-30 mm long. Epicalyx segments 7-12, each about 8-12 x 0.5-0.75 mm. Calyx about 6-9 mm long, outer surface clothed in simple and stellate or branched hairs. Petals about 25-50 mm long. Centre of corolla red. Staminal column about 10-15 mm long. Anthers U-shaped. Pollen orange. Ovary sericeous, style branches hairy.


Capsules shorter than the calyx, +/- 5-winged and about 10-15 mm diam. Calyx and epicalyx persistent at the base. Seeds reniform, laterally compressed, about 2.5-3 x 2 mm, testa glabrous but verrucose or colliculate.


Cotyledons +/- orbicular, about 9-13 x 10-13 mm. Petiole longer than the cotyledons. First pair of true leaves with toothed or lobed margins. At the tenth leaf stage: base of the leaf blade distinctly cordate. Numerous sessile pale-coloured glands visible on the underside of the leaf blade. Leaf blade clothed in simple 3-armed hairs. Petiole clothed in stellate hairs. Stipules linear, hairy, about 1-2 mm long. Stem clothed in both glandular and simple hairs. Seed germination time 181 to 252 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as coastal central Queensland. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 800 m. Grows as an understory plant in monsoon forest and vine thickets. Also occurs in Africa, Asia, Malesia and the Pacific islands.

Natural History & Notes

Known as Fioria vitifolia (L.) Mattei  in WA.


Fioria vitifolia (L.) Mattei, Bol. Ort. Palermo : 72 (1917). 

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