Ripogonum scandens


Ripogonum: pliant shoots with kneed joints
scandens: climbing; from the Latin scandere; groth habit

Common Name(s)

Supplejack, kareao

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Ripogonum scandens J.R.Forst. et G.Forst.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Monocotyledonous Lianes


Smilax ripogonum Forst.f.


Endemic. North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands


Coastal to montane. Usually in forest but occasionally in swamps (where it sprawls through flax and fern), and common in karst country where it often grows in doline, tomo and cave entrances


Woody, evergreen, twining forest liane. Rhizome horizontal, stout, lignaceous, usually swollen into a woody tuber 30-60 mm diameter at base of erect stem. Stems of two kinds: (a) twining stems growing upward from mature rhizome on forest floor, without green lvs, succulent at tip; these are several metres long, c.15–20 mm diameter, little branched, almost black, finely pubescent; nodes c.100–200 mm apart, thickened; sheathing scale leaves alternate, subopposite or opposite, membranous, 10-30 mm long, charcoal black, narrowly deltoid, finely brown-scabrid, caducous. (b) non-twining stems arising from the long stems in full light; these are to 1 m long, c.5 mm diameter, more branched and widely spreading, light brown, glabrous; internodes shorter, the distal ones bearing green leaves and inflorescences. Leaves mostly opposite, 55–160(-230) × 20–60(-80) mm, green, dark green or yellow-green, ± coriaceous, narrow-ovate to oblong, narrowed rather abruptly to tip, margins entire and ± undulate; petiole c.10-15 mm long, ± channelled. Inflorescence axillary or terminal, simple or compound, 100-150(-280) mm long; bracts usually all small and membranous, rarely foliaceous. Pedicels c.5–9 mm long, without bracteole at base but with one or more adjacent to and resembling perianth-segs. Flowers not crowded. Tepals green often hyaline green, minute, free, spreading. Stamens much > tepals; filaments c.2 mm long; anthers greenish, yellow or cream, linear-oblong, c.3.0–5.0 × 1.0–1.5 mm, dehiscing laterally by long slits. Ovary globose, c.1.5 mm diameter; ovules 2 per locule, attached about mid-level; style 2 mm long, including stigma of 3 verrucose lobes. Fruit globose, bright red, c.10-15 mm diameter, pericarp thin, fleshy, tightly stretched over 1–2(-3) hard, spotted seeds, seed when single almost spherical. Fuit. falling, 12–15 months after flowering, by abscission layer just above perianth.

Similar Taxa



October - May

Flower Colours



Throughout the year

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh fruit. Does best when planted in a moist soil within a shade site in a place where the vines can grown up into the sun.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 30

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Occasionally available from specialist native plant nurseries.

Cultural Use

The supple, flexuous and pliant but incredibly strong stems were the preferred medium from which Maori made hinaki (eel traps), they were also (in less politically correct times) the favoured source for canes for use in New Zealand schools!


Description adapted from Moore & Edgar (1970). Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 February 2011.

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand Vol. II. Wellington, Government Printer.  

This page last updated on 6 Dec 2014