Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Stephania japonica (Thunb.) Miers var. japonica

Slender Vine
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Male flowers. © CSIRO
Male flowers. © B. Gray
Leaves and Flowers. © CSIRO
Fruit and seed. © W. T. Cooper
Leaves and fruit. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Forman, L.L. (1957) Kew Bulletin 11 11: 54.

Common name

Tape Vine; Snake Vine; Vine, Snake


A slender vine not exceeding a stem diameter of 2 cm.


Leaf blades about 6-14 x 5-12.5 cm, much paler on the underside, petioles about 4-8.5 cm long. Twigs longitudinally grooved. About nine veins, including the midrib, radiating from the point of attachment of the petiole.


Male flowers: Inflorescence about 2.5-9 cm long, consisting of a number of umbels each containing a number of heads. Flowers small, about 2.5-3 mm diam. Sepals (tepals) in two whorls with four sepals (tepals) in each whorl. Narrow sepals (tepals) about 1.5 mm long. Broad sepals (tepals) about 1 mm long. Stamens fused to form a peltate structure. Pollen white. Female flowers: Inflorescence up to 10-11 cm long. Flowers borne in umbels which in turn are arranged in umbels. Flowers about 1-1.25 mm diam. Sepals narrowly elliptic, about 0.75-1 mm long, hairy on the outer surface. Petals broadly obovate to orbicular, about 0.75-1 mm long. Ovary about 1-1.25 mm long. Stigma two or three-lobed.


Fruits laterally compressed, about 7-8 x 6-7 mm, style remnants lateral, not far removed from the point of attachment of the fruit stalk. Endocarps, laterally compressed, spiny or rugose on the periphery, each endocarp about 5-6 x 4-5 mm. Embryo horseshoe-shaped, almost forming a circle, about 10-12 mm long. Cotyledons about 4 mm long. Radicle U-shaped, about 0.7-0.8 mm diam., longer and perhaps slightly wider than the cotyledons.


Cotyledons oblong-oblanceolate, about 14-18 x 2 mm, venation more obvious on the underside. First leaf blade wider than long, apex apiculate, base peltate. Petiole much longer than the leaf blade. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf peltate, leaf blade cordate, apex mucronate, base cordate. Venation palmate. Underside very pale. Midrib slightly raised on the upper surface. Stem twining. Seed germination time 20 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as south-eastern Queensland. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 1100 m. Grows in beach forest, lowland and upland rain forest. Also occurs in New Guinea and other parts of Malesia.

Natural History & Notes

This species has been suspected of being poisonous to stock but feeding tests have not confirmed this. Everist (1974).

Fruit eaten by Lewin's Honeyeaters, Victoria's Riflebirds and Golden Whistlers. Cooper & Cooper (1994).

Cocculus japonicus (Thunb.) DC., Syst. Nat. 1: 516(1817). Stephania japonica (Thunb.) Miers, Annals and Magazine of Natural History ser. 3 18: 14(1866). Menispermum japonicum Thunb., Flora Jap. : 193(1784), Type: Japan, Thunberg s.n.; Lecto: UPS. Fide Forman (1956).
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