Calamus muelleri (ARECACEAE) Lawyer Vine, Wait-a-while

Plants to Plant

Vigorous climbing palm with hooked whips, pinnate leaves with to 50 cm with up to 12 linear to lanceolate leaflets. The compound leaves are alternate on the stems. The leaflets, stalks and midribs have small prickles. Stiff backward-facing hooks on the rachis of the leaves (which are attached to the stems with little or no petiole) help the plant climb and also snag bushwalkers. Flowers December to February are small, greenish on a branched inflorescence followed by scaly, spherical, cream-brown coloured fruits ripe July-August. The globose fruit (around 12 mm in diameter) contains a tough brown seed surrounded by a thin, edible flesh. It is reasonably cold tolerant, surviving light frosts. Seed takes 2-3 months to germinate. Like many rainforest climbers Lawyer Vine will rapidly occupy disturbed parts of rainforest where an opening appears. The resulting growth can become quite dense and extensive. It will scramble over shrubs and trees and ascends to the canopy.

PHOTO: Photo: Matt Tomkins. Location: Kenilworth State Forest

Human Use

An acid drink was made by squashing the fruit in water. The canes and leaves were used to make baskets and huts. The thin, outer fleshy layer of the fruit is a traditional bush tucker. During early white settlement long canes were used for measuring (divided into chain lengths).

Photo: Robert Whyte