Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Piper hederaceum (Miq.) C.DC. var. hederaceum

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Inflorescence and female flowers. © CSIRO
Inflorescence and male flowers. © CSIRO
Fruit. © CSIRO
Fruit, single fruit and transverse section. © W. T. Cooper
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
Vine stem bark and vine stem transverse section. © CSIRO
Vine stem bark and vine stem transverse section. © CSIRO

Candolle, A.L.L.P. de (1869) Prodromus 16(1): 353.

Common name

Native Pepper Vine; Pepper Vine; Vine, Giant Pepper; Vine, Pepper; Vine, Native Pepper; Australian Pepper-vine; Giant Pepper Vine; Giant Pepper; Climbing Pepper


Vine stem diameters to 15 cm recorded. Blaze darkens rapidly on exposure. Blaze odour obvious but difficult to describe, spicy perhaps like pepper or limes. A ring of included bark is usually apparent near the centre in transverse sections of the stem.


Leaf blades about 5-14 x 2.5-9 cm, petioles about 0.5-2.5 cm long, grooved on the upper surface. Usually 5-7 veins radiating from the base of the leaf blade. Stipules about 4-4.5 cm long, caducous, scars encircling the twigs. Large pores visible with a lens in transverse sections of the twigs.


Male flowers: Inflorescence about 2.5-3.5 cm long. Individual flowers minute. Peltate scales about 0.5-0.7 mm diam. Stamens about one to four, associated with each flower or scale and extending beyond the scale at anthesis. Female flowers: Inflorescence a short, dense spike about 12-15 mm long. Flowers about 12-15 mm long, each flower subtended by a peltate scale or bract which fills the space between the flowers. Ovary green. Stigmas white, 2-5-lobed.


Infructescence a bright red cylindrical structure about 5-6 cm long, peduncle about 2 cm long, produced opposite the point of attachment of a leaf. Individual fruits broadly ellipsoidal, apex pointed, fruits about 8-10 x 6 mm on a stalk about 6-9 mm long. Seeds ellipsoidal, pointed at one end, each seed about 5-7 mm long. Embryo small. Embryo structure difficult to observe (interpret). Either the embryo is enclosed in a broadly conical structure about 1.5-2 x 2 mm or the whole structure is part of the embryo. If the embryo is regarded as enclosed in this structure then the true embryo is about 1-1.5 mm long with the cotyledons about as wide as but shorter than the radicle.


Cotyledons cordate to reniform, about 18-27 x 18-27 mm, hairy on both the upper and lower surfaces. First pair of leaves cordate, upper and lower surfaces densely clothed with hairs. Venation palmate. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade cordate, apex acute, base auriculate, upper and lower surfaces densely clothed in short hairs. Venation palmate. Stipules glabrous, about 9-12 mm long, enclosing the terminal bud and leaving an elongated triangular scar on the upper surface of the petiole. Adventitious roots emerging from the stem at each node. Oil dots irregularly shaped, +/- visible to the naked eye. Leaves emit a spicy odour when crushed. Seed germination time 43 to 97 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to Australia, occurs in CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as south-eastern New South Wales. Altitudinal range in CYP and NEQ from near sea level to 700 m. Grows in well developed lowland and upland rain forest.

Natural History & Notes

Fruit eaten by Golden Bowerbirds and Victoria's Riflebirds. Cooper & Cooper (1994).

Wood material of this species was active against some tumors. Collins et al. (1990).

Queensland's famous medical investigator, Dr Joseph Bancroft, found it an excellent stimulant tonic to the mucous membrane, and used it in the treatment of gonorrhoea. The active principle which Bancroft extracted with ether, has a 'warm, aromatic, pleasant taste, and a benumbing effect on the tongue, when applied to it in minute quantity'. In recent studies by Australian scientists alcoholic extracts have shown activity against one form of lung cancer in mice. Cribb (1981).

Cubeba hederacea Miq., London Journal Botany 4: 435(1845), Type: New South Wales, Five Islands (near Wollongong), Ja. 1829, A. Cunningham. Holo: K. Piper novae-hollandiae Miq., De Peperaceis Novae Hollandiae : 6(1866), Type: Queensland, Keppel Bay, Moreton Bay & Pine River, Mueller s.n. Piper novae-hollandiae Miq., Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen ser. 2, 2 2, 2: 60(1868), Type: Nascitur in Novae Hollandia boreali-orientali, prope Keppel-Bay (sp. fem. et sp. masc.), prope Moreton-Bay (sp. masc.), prope Pine-river (ste Piper australasicum C.DC., Prodromus 16(1): 353(1869), Type: Australia, K. Hugel. Holo: W. Piper hugeianum (Miq.) Miq., Pip. Nov. Holl. : 6(1866). Piper paramattense C. DC., Prodromus 16(1): 353(1869), Type: New South Wales, Paramatta, K. Hugel. Holo: W?. Chavica hugeliana Miq., Linnaea 26: 218(1853), Type: New South Wales, Port Jackson, K. Hugel, in Herbarium Zuccarini. Holo: M?, TUB?.
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