Cissus opaca (VITACEAE) Pepper Vine, Small-leaf Grape

Plants to Plant

Weak to medium climber with stems to about 6 m, the roots bearing fleshy, underground tubers to about 25 cm in length. Found in dry rainforest and sclerophyll forest, often over rocky outcrops chiefly in coastal areas north from the Hunter Valley, NSW. Flowers small, cream or yellowish-green, about 4 mm across; borne in loose cymes opposite a leaf. Appear October to November. Fruit a bluish-black berry to 14 mm across. Ripe December to March.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Mature Foliage

Leaves palmately compound, with usually 3 to 5 (occasionally 7) leaflets which are either sessile (no stalk) or taper to a very short petiolule (secondary stalk), and which radiate from the tip of the main petiole (stalk). Leaflets mostly elliptical, sometimes obovate, to 5 cm long, with entire or somewhat toothed margins; blades dull green above and glaucous, or often purplish, below. Branched leaf-opposed tendrils present, but domatia absent. Young growth hairless. Edible, but rather acrid. Tubers were collected and roasted by Aborigines. Tubers in this case are regular or irregular swellings along portions of a branched root system. Propagation from fresh seed, and cuttings of firm growth taken in summer. Requires good drainage and some shade for part of the day. Tolerant of dry periods when established, and moderately frost tolerant.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Leaf with Leaflets

This specimen was photographed in open eucalyptus woodland on the Maculata track, Mt Coot-tha, on Monday, 9 April 2007.
Photo: Robert Whyte