T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Muehlenbeckia australis (Pohuehue)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division :Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Polygonaceae
Genus: Muehlenbeckia 
Species: M australos
Scientific name : Muehlenbeckia australis
Synonyms: Coccoloba australis, Polygonum australe, Muehlenbeckia adpressa  
Common names:  Pohuehue, Large-leaved Muehlenbeckia

Muehlenbeckia australis is large, robust, many–branched vine with sturdy stems. It becomes a high climber covering shrubs and trees. Its tendrils twine clockwise. 
It has juvenile and adult leaf forms. The leaves on adult plants are broadly oval and dark green while those on juvenile plants are three-lobed or fiddle-shaped. The leaves are on stiff petioles which are 25 millimetres long. The leaves 2–8 centimetres by 1–3 centimetres long. The leaves margins are undulating, irregular and leaves surface are hairless with glands. This species is best described as semi-deciduous, the degree of leaf loss varying markedly according to exposure, site, and geographic location.
It is a dioecious vine (male and female reproductive organs in separate plants). Creamy flower panicles appear from late spring to autumn. The small flowers are 2-3 mm diameter. They have 8 stamens and the ovary is above the petals.
Sometimes bisexual flowers are produced. (photo below)
Flowering is followed by juicy fruits with black shiny seeds that are covered by a white, succulent cup of 5 sepals. The fruit are sought after by birds and lizards.

Muehlenbeckia australis is one of five native species of Muehlenbeckia in New Zealand. It is found in lowland to mountain areas. It grows naturally in places where there is plentiful light and climbing support such as forest margins, cliff faces, scrub and regenerating vegetation. It has flourished since human settlement because land clearance has created conditions it favours such as edges around forest remnants.

Muehlenbeckia australis and Muehlenbeckia complexa are two of the few native species that can be considered a weed in certain circumstances. With their rampant growth they engulf trees and hedges on roadsides.  Brian Patrick of Otago Museum says that Muehlenbeckia australis fulfils an important ecological function, forming a protective seal around forest edges and over exposed bluffs and banks, and healing natural or human induced disturbance. Often, it is the only native species persisting in highly modified areas.Click here to read about the Ecological importance of Muehlenbeckia australis

The Maoris used the enlarged and juicy sepals and petals that surround the fruit. It was used a sweet supplement and was especially favoured by children. It was consumed raw.

Adult vine photographed at Otari Wilton Bush Reserve, Wellington.


A juvenile plant.

Juvenile plant.

The white flowers and the pink unopened flowers buds.

Male flower.

Side view of male flower.

Female flower.

Photo of bisexual flower one stamen has been remove.

The fruit (March)

A juicy fruit with a black shiny seed that is covered by a white, succulent cup of 5 sepals

Juvenile leaves.

Forms of juvenile leaves.

An adult leaf 

The underside of adult leaves

Thanks to L.Jensen of Auckland University for the use of flower images.
Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/