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
Maori name: 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.

Flowering and fruiting of Muehlenbeckia australis occur from late spring to autumn. It has juvenile and adult leaf forms, with leaf loss in winter. 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.

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.







The leaf of  the Large-leaved Muehlenbeckia


The underside of the leaves