19 October 2008

Sarcopetalum harveyanum

Sarcopetalum harveyanum (meaning of name: Fleshy petals) is common in or near rainforest and is also often found in moist eucalypt forest, chiefly in coastal areas along the eastern seaboard of Australia from Victoria, through New South Wales, right up into Queensland.

You have to be very lucky to see the tiny flowers of Sarcopetalum harveyanum as they are held on short racemes, 3 to 7cm long, and only last a day or so. The flowers are very, very tiny, with petals about 3 mm long - and they pop straight out from the trunk of the vine, generally on the old wood. The old wood of this vine is usually high in the canopy of the rainforest hence the difficulty in spotting the tiny flowers.

Fruit is a globular berry, 5 to 8mm in diameter, slightly flattened. They are brown to begin with, for all the world like a brown lentil; then as they swell and ripen they turn pinkish and then red. They are quite small, yet bigger than you would expect after catching sight of the tiny flowers.

They are odd in the way they can pop out of the ground or an old stalk where there are no leaves, or anything else to give you a clue as to the name of the vine.

The first time I saw this vine fruiting they looked like bunches of grapes hanging in the forest. It took me months of researching to find out what they were.

The leaves of this woody climber are distinctly heart- shaped and, when young, a lovely apple green.

They can be distinguished from other vines with similar shaped leaves by seeing where the stalk joins the leaf. In Sarcopetalum harveyanum the stalk joins the leaf in the bottom of the V or right at the top of the heart.

You can see it more easily in this photograph.

As well there are 7 clear veins radiating from the stalk.

A similar looking vine and often seen together in the rainforest is Stephania japonica, but there the stalk joins the leaf distinctly away from top edge and the leaves are much more rounded.

Something has eaten pieces out of the leaves in this photograph.

Larvae known to feed on

Harveyanum Sarcopetalum

My favourite book for attempting to name the plants on my 10 hectares of rainforest and dry schlerophyll forest is Native Plants of the Sydney District An Identification Guide by Alan Fairley and Philip Moore, published by Kangaroo Press and readily available. It is a great book because almost every plant has a photograph, particularly of the flowers, which is what I always notice first in any plant.
Rainforest Trees of Mainland South-eastern Australia by AG Floyd,published by Terania Rainforest Publishing Lismore, Australia. Also a great book with a wealth of information but no photographs.

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