Plant Profile  – Wombat Berry

A Wombat Berry acting like a groundcover in my “Wild Woods” rehabilitation area.

Also known as:

  • Eustrephus latifolius
  • Orange Vine
The flowers of the Wombat Berry are hard to spot as they hang downwards. Note the frilled or furry edges of the petals.

Growing conditions:

  • Part shade/shade
  • Tolerant of most soils
  • Vine, gentle climber that doesn’t restrict the host
  • Groundcover
  • Suitable for pots, garden beds, rockeries, bush rehabilitation
  • Suits hanging pots which allow the foliage to hang over the edges
Seeds ripe for planting – fresh seed is best.  The edible white arils, which taste something like coconut,  are clearly evident.

Propagation:

  • Fresh Seeds, 54-368 days germination

This plant is truly unique, owning a genus all to itself. It’s closest relative, which it can be confused with, is the Scrambling Lily (Geitonoplesium cymosum) also alone in its genus. It is found all along the East Coast of Australia in dry and wet forests and heathlands.

The split orange berry is ready to harvest for the edible white aril and seeds to plant.

It was the orange berries on this vine that first caught my eye in the Wild Woods, one of my bush rehabilitation rooms. I took photos and submitted them to a Facebook group for identification. I was relieved that it was native and thrilled that it was edible.

A Wombat Berry Vine climbing a fence.

The white arils in the berries taste like coconut, but they aren’t a substantial harvest. Apparently the roots, which are popular with Wombats and Bandicoots, are crisp and sweet. I haven’t sampled them yet, but as soon as I have some growing in my Permaculture Room I plan to try them! The roots can be up to a metre underground so it hardly seems worth digging in to our compact soil and depriving the ecosystem of this endemic species. The other advantage is that I can continue to harvest seeds from established survivors.

Apparently King Parrots love these berries but this one is hidden in the undergrowth.

In my area Wombat Berry can be found sprawling across the ground or climbing anything from fences to shrubs to small trees. It is an understorey plant so it is frequently found in the shaded areas and a great vine to grow in a shady spot. I have one established plant that has survived for years in a very sunny spot with compacted soil, but it is the exception to the rule. The rest are all in well-shaded locations.

There are two forms of this plant and countless variations in those two forms. The leaves can be very thin or as broad as a Scrambling Lily. Another way to distinguish the two plants is that the Wombat Berry leaves connect directly to the stem whereas Scrambling Lily has a short petiole (stalk). Wombat Berry flowers look furry whereas Scrambling Lillies don’t.

This hardy survivor lasted through the two year drought with no apparent issues, though I wonder if the root would be as palatable after a lengthy time without rain. I haven’t observed any species eating the berries or digging up the roots but the berries frequently vanish from the most visible vines. From research, I suspect it may be King Parrots who reportedly love the berries and seeds. Wombats and Bandicoots are rarely sighted in our area due to being displaced by development. Perhaps this is why I never see any signs of digging around the plants.

Wishing you small pleasures,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

References

ANPSA

Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants

Toowoomba Plants

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