Scientific name: Ripogonum scandens
Maori name: Kareao
Other names: pirita
Vine or creeper
- native to the Wellington Region
Suits: damp, shade, partial shade, sunny, shelter, coastal forest garden, wetlands and water features
A weird and wonderful plant, this woody vine might not be to familiar to gardeners, perhaps due to its jungle feel, but it’s an interesting species to use for a bush gardens. Supplejack’s red berries bring colour and attrac fruit-eating birds such as kereru and kaka. A woody, evergreen, twining forest liane with hard but flexible stems. Its dark brown stems often form impenetrable thickets. It starts its life as a thick stem searching for a support.In the absence of such support the vines drop to the ground, looping across the forest floor in a dense entanglement that can be very hard to walk through!
In its fourth season, when it is about 50 centimetres tall, its stem tip starts to spiral anticlockwise. Once it finds anything to cling and support itself onto, it grows upwards to access sunlight several metres long, where it then develops branches and opposite paired 12 cm long, dark green leaves among which the flower spikes evolve. In late summer to autumn the berries are a splash of bright red, ca 1-2 cm in clumps. However supplejack may fruit through out the year, making is an imporant source of food, when oter food is scarce.
Early Māori used the tough stems of kareao as battens to tie up the thatched sides and roofs of their houses (whare), and for tying up fences and platforms. The split stems were used to make kite frames. Māori, and European settlers, used kareao to make eel traps
Can grow slow for some time, but once settled well in, it can grow up to 5 cm on hot summer days.
Provides for birds
Provides for lizards
- Complexity and height
- Protection from predators
- Habitat connection
Read more about gardening for lizards.