In the rainforests of East Gippsland, the first flowers you see are on native vines.

Vines and climbing plants cover rainforest trees and many have showy flowers and fruit. Glorious sprays of starry white Austral Clematis flowers cover the tops of Lilly Pilly trees. A haze of pink or lemon could be Wonga Vine or Milk-vine flowers.

Pandorea pandorana vine flowers East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Roger Smith

A bloom of blue over the tops of shrubs and trees will be the fruit of Water Vine Cissus hypoglauca and Smilax australis. Native vine fruits are some of the most important foods for birds in the rainforest – Topknot Pigeons, Satin Bowerbirds, Australian Figbirds, Brown Cuckoo-doves and even possible visitors to East Gippsland: Rose-crowned and Superb Fruit-doves feed on the fruits of lianes. Vine flowers provide nectar to countless butterflies and moths, other flying insects, and nectarivorous birds like Eastern Spinebills, Crescent and Scarlet Honeyeaters. The flying insects attracted to vine flowers become food for Black-faced Monarchs, Rufous Fantails and Brown Gerygones.

Black-faced Monarch bird Wombat Berry Smilax vines East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Martin Maderthaner

Water Vine Cissus hypoglauca fruit East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

Australia has around 400 species of climbing plant. The state of Victoria has over 40 species of native vine, and almost all of those live in, or are restricted to, East Gippsland.

In Australia, the majority of vines, lianes or climbing plants occur in ‘warm rainforest’ (tropical, sub-tropical & warm temperate), and the only examples of warm rainforest in Victoria are in East Gippsland.

But not all vines live in rainforest. East Gippsland also has some beautiful climbers and creepers growing on the rocks at the coast, in the dry forests and in heathlands.

Purple Coral-Pea Hardenbergia violacea flower

Pic by Wildlife Guide Martin Maderthaner

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The guide below has been grouped by habitat: Rainforest or Dry Forest/Coast; and by leaf arrangement: opposite, alternate or pinnate; and in alphabetical order by species (latin) name. See below for an explanation of terms and of the different climbing methods.

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RAINFOREST:

Vines usually found in rainforest, wet forest and/or moist gullies. May also occur in other forest types.

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LEAVES OPPOSITE:

Two leaves arise directly opposite each other on the stem or branch.

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Austral (Mountain) Clematis Clematis aristata

Flowers: white, large and showy with four long petals. Spring
Fruit: Silky silver filaments like a shiny white beard. Sometimes this plant is called Old Mans Beard.
Leaves: toothed (serrated) edges, broad lanceolate, opposite. Can be purple underneath.
Climbing method: Leaf stalks
What eats it:  Apple Looper moth Phrissogonus laticostata

More info and pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/10fa9d50-05b6-4557-9242-fb15ff4a5be2

Austral Mountain Clematis aristata flower East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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Jasmine Morinda Gynochthodes jasminoides 

Flowers: Small white to mauve flowers, spring to summer
Fruit: Orange fruit, can be abundant. Edible, fleshy, but not palatable to humans.
Leaves: broad lanceolate, opposite, glossy.
Climbing method: probably twining
What eats it: Fruit eaten by birds, probably Wonga Pigeon, Satin Bowerbird, Olive-backed Oriole, Australian Figbird, Common Koel and Channel-billed Cuckoo.

More info & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/d9829046-3b95-4035-a138-288741cd927c

Jasmine Morinda Gynochthodes jasminoides vine fruit East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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Milk Vine Marsdenia rostrata

Flowers: white to pinkish with long stalks, massed together in heads, 5 petals, spring to summer.
Fruit: Long capsule
Leaves: Ovate, glossy, thin.
Climbing method: twiner
What eats it: Rainforest Vine Moth Fodina ostorius, Lesser Wanderer butterfly Danaus petilia 

More information & pics: http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/plants/apoc/marsdenia-rostrata.html  and https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/ec6f03d0-3e11-406e-9ee0-3d8346fa052f

Milk Vine Marsdenia rostrata flowers climber East Gippsland Victoria

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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Twining Silkpod Parsonsia brownii

Flowers: Perfumed flowers. Spring to summer
Fruit: long pods with silky filaments.
Leaves: lanceolate, opposite
Climbing method: possibly a twiner
What eats it: Macleay’s Swallowtail butterfly has been seen feeding on the flowers (Oakley Germech observation). Other insects and small birds would be attracted to the flowers.

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/97443aa7-4f00-4a73-8876-e3fc9fd95622

Twining Silkpod Parsonsia brownii flower East Gippsland

Twining Silkpod Parsonsia brownii leaves flower Victoria

Pics by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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Bearded Tylophora Tylophora barbata

Flowers: dark red, small with 5 petals. Spring to summer
Fruit: long capsules splitting to reveal silky filaments
Leaves: opposite, ovate with pointed tips.
Climbing method: possibly twiner

What eats it:  Rainforest Vine Moth Fodina ostorius

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/4db48159-b5fa-4119-8907-0da21357f805

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LEAVES ALTERNATE OR SOLITARY:

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Common Appleberry Billardiera scandens

Flowers: Cream to yellow-greenish, long pendulous tubes. Spring to summer
Fruit: oval greenish yellow, soft when ripe.
Leaves: Linear elliptic, often with wavy edges. Net-veined.
Climbing method: possibly twiner
What eats it: Eastern Spinebills love the flowers, and Silvereyes eat the fruit.

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/6c325a2f-c22e-4773-83ae-6c5a2a810385

Common Appleberry Billardiera scandens flower vine

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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Forest Bindweed Calystegia marginata

Flowers: white, solitary. Spring and summer
Fruit: a round papery capsule enclosing seeds.
Leaves: arrow-shaped, single on a long stalk and often opposite a flower or bud, glossy.
Climbing method: probably twiner
What eats it: Not known.  Insects would be attracted to the large white flowers.

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/6ff19de8-52c8-40d8-bff2-438bc1569102

Forest Bindweed Calystegia marginata flower East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

Wombat Berry Eustrephus latifolius

Flowers: pink to white, with yellow centre. 6 ‘petals’ (actually 3 petals & 3 sepals like lilies), summer
Fruit: orange, round berries with many seeds
Leaves: ovate to lanceolate, with long veins parallel to outer edges.
Climbing method: possibly twiner

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/feb316a9-b426-47f4-a52b-3ac8a38b81fb

Wombat Berry fruit

Wombat Berry flower

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Pearl Vine Sarcopetalum harveyanum

Flowers: tiny, white and only last a day. They come out of the old wood of the vine on short racemes.
Fruit: Start out looking like brown lentils, then go reddish. Often on old wood with no leaves nearby to help you identify the plant.
Leaves: heart-shaped, large and glossy, alternate.
Climbing method: Twiner
What eats it:  Green Fruit-piercing moth Eudocima salaminia and Common Fruit-piercing moth Eudocima fullonia.

More information & pics: http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/plants/meni/sarcopetalum-harveyanum.html and https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/08b5c091-9d12-4bca-8e5b-ec3071ae9dd2

Pearl Vine leaves Sarcopetalum harveyanum Mallacoota

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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Austral Sarsparilla Smilax australis

Flowers: small cream to yellow, in umbels (clusters).
Fruit: Start pink-purple, become black when ripe.
Leaves: Large, round-oval, with prominent veins.
Climbing method: Tendrils and hooks
What eats it: Satin Bowerbirds eat the fruit. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers. Erebus terminitincta and Plusiodonta coelonota, Coral Jewel Hypochrysops miskini and Cephenes Blue butterfly caterpillars Pseudodipsas cephenes eat the leaves.

More information & pics: http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/plants/smil/smilax-australis.html and https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/c2c3a3c7-638d-466d-8945-91a6379e215c

Austral Sarsparilla Smilax australis new leaves Victoria

smilax australis flower

smilax australia unripe fruit

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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LEAVES IN GROUPS (PINNATE):

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Wonga Vine  Pandorea pandorana

Flowers: white with brown or purple insides, sometimes yellow to cream. Can be abundant and very showy. Spring.
Fruit: woody pods with winged seeds inside.
Leaves: pinnate – 3 to 7 broad lanceolate leaflets on each leaf stalk.
Climbing method: twiner
What eats it:  Alucita phricodes moth.  Honeyeater birds like Eastern Spinebill, Crescent Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater would be attracted to the tubular flowers.

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/9c415aca-0d80-4257-b39f-125949b00342

Wonga Vine  Pandorea pandorana flower close vine East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Martin Maderthaner

Wonga Vine  Pandorea pandorana flowers East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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Water Vine Cissus hypoglauca

Flowers: small yellow in umbels (clusters). Flowers in summer.
Fruit: blue black, abundant fleshy drupes (berries).
Leaves: Five leaflets on stalk (pinnate).
Climbing method: Tendrils
What eats it:  Rainforest Vine Day-moth Coenotoca subaspersa and Brown Cuckoo-dove, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, Superb Fruit-dove, Topknot Pigeon, and probably Wonga Pigeon, Satin Bowerbird, Olive-backed Oriole and Australian Figbird, Common Koel and Channel-billed Cuckoo.

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/8cb00448-d0e1-43fc-a4cd-1aca749717ae

Water Vine Cissus hypoglauca fruit close East Gippsland

Cissus hypoglauca vine leaves

Pics by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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DRY FORESTS & COAST:

Vines, creepers or climbers usually found in dry forest and/or by the coast. May also occur in other forest types.

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LEAVES ALTERNATE OR SOLITARY:

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Love Creeper Comesperma volubile

Flowers: purple with 2 petals and a dark purple ‘keel’ central area, spring
Fruit: capsule that splits to reveal long silky filaments
Leaves: absent or few, linear, small
Climbing method: probably twiner
More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/da6eed71-d2bd-4b95-8694-f5916ed0ba55

Comesperma volubile flowers Victoria

Pic by Wildlife Guide Scott Roberts

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Hardenbergia / Purple Coral-Pea Hardenbergia violacea

This tough creeper/climber can grow almost anywhere – from rocky coastlines to forest.

Flowers: purple ‘pea’ flowers, winter to spring
Fruit: woody pods with seeds inside.
Leaves: lanceolate, stiff and thick, not very glossy.
Climbing method: possibly a branch climber
What eats it: Twig Looper or Common Bark Moth Ectropis excursaria, Painted Apple Moth Teia anartoides and a tortix moth Grapholita zapyrana 

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/b0aae4f9-9366-431a-b65d-7bd7de457797

Purple Coral-Pea Hardenbergia violacea flower

Purple Coral-Pea Hardenbergia violacea at coast Cape Conran

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

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LEAVES IN GROUPS (PINNATE):

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Running Postman Kennedia prostrata

Flowers: large red and orange pea flowers, spring
Fruit: pod
Leaves: tri-foliate 3 leaflets on each stalk.
Climbing method: possibly twiner or branch climber
What eats it: Four Eyes or Ivy Leafroller moth Cryptoptila immersana and possibly Eastern Spinebill and New Holland Honeyeater. A katydid was observed on closely-related Kennedia coccinea (James Cornelious observation)

More information & pics: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/5eeb73fc-e77c-474b-9c5f-e7c232abbd66

Kennedia prostrata flower

Pic by Wildlife Guide Martin Maderthaner

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Our Wildlife Journey tour to East Gippsland, Victoria visits several different rainforests and riparian (river) forest that are home to flowering vines: Cabbage Tree Palms Flora Reserve, Spring Creek in Buchan Caves Reserve, Balley Hooley and Basin Creek Falls in Snowy River National Park, and Cape Conran Coastal Reserve. These areas have specialised wildlife including Powerful Owl, Shining Bronze-cuckoo and Brush Cuckoo, Red-browed Treecreeper, Lewins Honeyeater, Large-billed Scrubwren, Brown Gerygone, Olive Whistler, Satin Flycatcher, Rose Robin and Bassian Thrush. Dragonflies and butterflies flit around the streams, and Gippsland Water Dragons bask on logs in these forests.  Read about Gippsland Water Dragons here. 

Our 21 day Maximum Wildlife tour also visits the larger, more complex and wildlife-rich rainforests around Mallacoota, Mt Drummer and Bemm River.

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EXPLANATION OF TERMS:

Pinnate: a leaf made up of leaflets sharing a common spine (rachis). Like most ferns.
Lanceolate: broad at base tapering to a point at end. Like most eucalyptus leaves.
Ovate: broad, egg-shaped. Like a lemon leaf.
Linear elliptic: long, tapering at both ends.
Pea flowers: flowers of the pea family usually have an irregular orchid-like flower shape made up of one standard petal, two wing petals and a keel, made up of two fused petals. Egg-and-bacon plants are a type of pea.

EXPLANATION OF CLIMBING METHODS of East Gippsland vines:

Vines or climbers ascend by different means (1).  There’s some great diagrams here. 

Twiners: Most lianes climb by twining – the stems grow in a spiral around a support. The nodes and tips of these plants are sensitive to touch, so they start to circle tightly when they make contact with anything else. East Gippsland example: Wonga Vine

Leaf climbers: Some climbing plants use their leaves to climb. Parts of the leaves or leaf stalks are sensitive and will bend or coil towards the support. East Gippsland example: Austral Clematis Clematis aristata 

Tendrils: Some climbing plants have developed specialised structures – tendrils – to climb. Tendrils are long stalk-like structures, usually with sensitive tips that circle around a support. Some of our strongest vines use tendrils to climb. See pic below.  East Gippsland example: Smilax australis, Water Vine Cissus hypoglauca 

Tendrils on Smilax australis East Gippsland

Pic by Wildlife Guide Janine Duffy

Root climbers: The roots of some climbing plants hook in to crevices or the surface of a support. No examples in East Gippsland, Victoria that I can find.

Branch climbers: Some climbing plants have long stiff branches, with side branches at right angles that get caught up in other plants. East Gippsland example: maybe Hardenbergia

Hook climbers: These are well-known for their ability to catch bushwalkers! Some of the common names of rainforest vines give them away as hook climbers: Lawyer Vine, Wait-a-while, Mother-in-law vine. Hooks or spines in the stems, branches or leaves make contact with another plant and provide support. East Gippsland example: Native Rubus species (& introduced Blackberry), Smilax australis

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NOTES & REFERENCES:

(1) Jones & Gray (1977) Australian Climbing Plants pp.13-27

Some vines of East Gippsland: https://www.egcma.com.au/file/file/Landcare/Native%20vines%20-%20womens%20landcare%20report.pdf

East Gippsland bioregion: https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/static/bioregions/east-gippsland

A summary of a talk about climbing plants by Roger Elliot: http://anpsa.org.au/APOL9/mar98-1.html

Plants that provide food for butterflies in south-east Queensland: https://noosalandcare.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/BUTTERFLY-ATTRACTING-PLANTS.pdf

Thanks to Oakley Germech and James Cornelious for adding your observations. 

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