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Australian Native Plant Profile: Wombat Berry (Eustrephus latifolius)

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Common Names: Wombat Berry, Orange Vine
Scientific Name: Eustrephus latifolius
Synonyms: Eustrephus angustifolius, Eustrephus brownii
Family: Asparagaceae

Wombat berry (Eustrephus latifolius) is a tuberous-rooted, evergreen, twinning or multi-stemmed scrambling vine reaching 6 m high on a suitable trellis. It may scramble and form a clump 3 m across when grown without support.

Wombat Berry fruit start off green but turn orange as they ripen and eventually split to reveal the black seeds and white aril flesh within.

Wombat Berry fruit start off green but turn orange as they ripen and eventually split to reveal the black seeds and white aril flesh within.

Characteristic Features of Wombat Berry

Eustrephus latifolius has attractive, small flowers with fringed margins on the inner three of six white to pale pink petals. As its name suggests, wombat berry produces plenty of showy orange berries which persist and en masse can be used as a long, colourful display through winter.

The berries also attract fruit-eating birds, and the tuberous roots attract wombats and other native root-eating mammals. Here are some other characteristics of this evergreen vine:

  • It is moderately fast growing but not excessively vigorous, which is handy as it's unlikely to smother other plants.
  • It is an adaptable plant that thrives in sun or partial shade. It can tolerate extended periods of dryness once established.
  • It will grow on most soil types and even tolerates light frost.
  • It suffers from no major pests or diseases.

Horticultural Uses for Eustrephus latifolius

Wombat berry can be planted at the base of trees and allowed to grow up them to provide added interest.

Alternatively, they can be trellised along a fence or used to form dense multi-stemmed ground-covering clump without support.

It can also be used as part of an edge planting or ground cover when grown this way.

Wombat berry is an excellent plant for growing in a hanging basket; its foliage will trail over the sides of the pot and form a cascade.

Indigenous Use of Eustrephus latifolius

Some Indigenous peoples of Australia ate the small underground tubers of Eustrephus latifolius both raw or baked. The tubers of wombat berry are reported to have a sweet earthy flavour when eaten raw, I have eaten wombat berry tubers personally and can confirm this, and although the sweetness is mild, they are not unpleasant.

The thin, crisp, white aril inside the fruits of wombat berries were also eaten, but the numerous black seeds and skin were discarded. I have also eaten the white arils, but the quantity of seed and small amount of flesh means that a lot of harvesting and processing is required to get decent edible portions from the berries. The white arils of the berries unfortunately possess little in the way of flavour.

The vine-stems of Eustrephus latifolius stripped of leaves were also used to tie objects which including their use in food preparation.

The 19th-century European botanist Baron von Mueller noted that the tubers of Wombat berry could be suitable as a large scale food crop if enlarged through culture and breeding; unfortunately, little progress has been made towards this end.

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Limitations When Planting Wombat Berry

Wombat berry is likely to be outcompeted by more vigorous plants and as such should not be planted where it may be overrun by other more vigorous climbers or groundcovers.

The flowers of Eustrephus latifolius have alternately-arranged fringed petals and petals without fringes.

The flowers of Eustrephus latifolius have alternately-arranged fringed petals and petals without fringes.

Ideal Conditions for Growing Wombat Berry

Eustrephus latifolius is commonly found growing in sandy soils on hillsides in open forests, dry woodlands, heathland and rainforest margins all the way along the east coast of Australia and into Melanesia, New Guinea, and New Caledonia.

Wombat berry does best in dappled shade, but it can handle full sun once established.

Wombat berry prefers to grow in a location that receives even rainfall throughout the year, allowing a constantly moist soil to be maintained, maximizing growth.

Mildly acidic to alkaline soil are ideal growth media for Eustrephus latifolius.

Culture of Eustrephus latifolius Plants

  • Enrich the soil prior to planting wombat berry by adding humus.
  • Ensure the soil is free draining before planting your wombat berry plants.
  • Trim and tip-prune you wombat berries regularly to encourage a compact habit and promote heavier flowering. Eustrephus latifolius should be pruned to contain its size once flowering has finished as required.
  • Eustrephus latifolius plants benefit from the addition of organic material to the soil each year during spring, avoid damaging the underground tubers while doing this.

Container-grown wombat berries can be fertilised with a native plant fertiliser in spring to promote growth.

Propagation of Eustrephus latifolius is achieved easiest by using fresh seed, although cuttings and layerings will also strike if they are kept moist and allowed plenty of time to develop roots.

Large, well-established scrambling patches of wombat berry can be dug and divided in spring and replanted in other areas of the garden.

Eustrephus latifolius fruit.

Eustrephus latifolius fruit.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 TheNerdyGardener


Pat on September 09, 2018:

Really useful as I grow this in Sth Gippsland and weave random baskets with it.

poppy on June 25, 2018:

i really like it, it gave me a lot of information on my research i was doing for school

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