Muehlenbeckia australis (Large-leaved Muehlenbeckia)
Species: M australos
Scientific name : Muehlenbeckia australis
Synonyms: Coccoloba australis, Polygonum australe, Muehlenbeckia adpressa
Common names: Pohuehue, Large-leaved Muehlenbeckia
Muehlenbeckia australis is one of five native species of Muehlenbeckia in New Zealand. They are scrambling vines or prostrate to erect woody shrubs with small flowers and fleshy fruits. Most species prefer exposed habitats in coastal to lower montane locations.
The leaves are on stiff petioles which are 25 millimetres long. The leaves 2–8 centimetres by 1–3 centimetres long.
The Muehlenbeckia species have juvenile and adult leaf forms, with leaf loss in winter.
Flowering and fruiting of Muehlenbeckia australis occur from late spring to autumn. The flowers are greenish and juicy fruits form as black shiny seeds covered by a white, succulent cup of sepals. These are sought after by birds and lizards. Muehlenbeckia belongs in the dock family.
Muehlenbeckia australis with its rampant growth engulfing trees and roadsides and though it is in some circumstances it occupies an important place in New Zealand's ecology.It grows naturally in places where there is plentiful light and climbing support such as forest edges, 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. The creamy flower panicles occur mainly in spring and summer.
Brian Patrick of Otago Museum says that pohuehue 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.
Photographed at Otari Wilton Bush Reserve, Wellington.