Did you know that Indigenous Australians have used this plant as a tea and medicine for thousands of years?
It is known by many names: Hardenbergia violacea, False Sarsparilla, Purple Coral Pea, Wild Sarsparilla, Waraburra, Vine Lilac.
This lovely vine clambers and wanders over anything in its path. It makes a great groundcover or climber with stunning purple flowers just before the end of winter. Indigenous Australians recognised these flowers as a “seasonal indicator” that certain types of fish could be sustainably fished from creeks.
A Plant with Many Uses
It has many uses including adding the flowers to tea as a sweetener, brewing a tea from the leaves (if cooled and sweetened with native honey, apparently it tastes like Sarsparilla) and eating flowers to detox and cleanse. Medicinally it was used to treat: mouth ulcers, chest complaints and stomach cramps. Other uses including weaving the vine to create fishnets, ropes and traps and making a dye from the flowers.
A Hardy Plant
It is a hardy plant that will adapt to most growing conditions. Flowering at the end of Winter is generally more abundant in sunnier positions. As a widespread plant certain varieties will grow better in certain conditions. Different coloured flowers ranging from blue-purples to pinks and whites have now been cultivated and are sold in nurseries.
Propagation is easy from seed provided that the seeds are pre-treated with boiling water or by abrasion to remove the coat that allows seeds to remain viable for many years.
About two years ago we cleared a patch of about two square metres of lantana near our front gate. Hardenbergia violacea appeared of its own accord and has now covered the soil with its attractive leaves.
Apparently, the tea is similar to green tea in flavour and historically was used in some communities, unsweetened, as a punishment for children who skipped school!
This article was first published in the Tamborine Bulletin March 2022.
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