Cissus antarctica

Kangaroo Vine; Water Vine; Vine, Water; Vine

Family: Vitaceae

A vigorous scrambling vine forming patches to over 10 metres wide and tall, potentially forming thick basal stems.

It is endemic to Australia, occurring as far as north-east Queensland and central-east Queensland and southwards as far as south-eastern New South Wales. In NSW, it grows along the coast mainly but extends into the tablelands and central western slopes.

It is found in well-developed upland rain forest and wet sclerophyll forest and can also be found behind beach dunes in littoral rainforest and sand dune scrub. 

Cissus can have simple or compound leaves. In this species, leaves are simple, mostly to 12 cm long and to 5 cm wide, ovate to oblong with regular teeth. The upper surface is dark green and hairless (glabrous) and the lower surface rusty-hairy. Each leaf has a leaf-opposed tendril (modified leaves copposite each leaf) which enable the plant to climb; a typical feature of species in this grape family.

Flowers are produced in panicle-like clusters opposite the leaves, 1 to 3 cm long and are creamy-white on colour occurring in spring. Each flower is only 5 mm across.

Being in the grape family, the fruit is a berry, approximately 15 mm in diameter, globe-shaped and purplish in colour.

In the garden

In the garden situation, it is commonly cultivated over a trellis or fence. It is best grown in a warm temperate to sub-tropical climates and can also be used as spreading groundcover, creating a dense patch. It can be observed growing as a somewhat untidy but dense hedge in some garden situations in Sydney and elsewhere or to create a barrier to stop people walking through a particular area. It could be used to screen an ugly fence to great effect, so long as the stems can grip onto something.

It has been promoted through channels like Gardening Australia as a great indoor plant, and can be grown around a window or up a wall on a supporting frame.

Fruits are eaten by many bird species.

It should be grown in diffused sunshine to partial shade. The leaves are hardy in full sun, but these plants prefer their roots to be well-shaded or under a thick layer of mulch. It is very hardy once established. It will have to be pruned to keep it under control and direct it where it is desired to grow.


Propagation is easy from cuttings, which root readily. Germination from seed is slow – three months plus.

Other information

Very similar to a Queensland species named Cissus oblonga, which has leaves usually with entire leaf margins but of similar dimensions and appearance.

Likely regenerates from the seedbank and vigorous root system after fire (much like old grape vines).

Cissus is a genus of about 350 species – inhabiting mainly the tropical zone worldwide. Australia has 14 species, 7 of which are endemic, occurring in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Northern Territory. NSW currently has 4 species. 

Cissus – is derived from the Greek word kissos (κισσος), meaning “ivy”

– meaning “regions around the South Pole”. Antarctica means “opposite to the Arctic” (Greek: ἀνταρκτική) – basically referring to Australia as this plant is only found in Australia.

This species is not considered to be at risk in the wild – very common.

Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants – Cissus antarctica profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/rainforest/text/entities/cissus_antarctica.htm

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Cissus antarctica profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Cissus~antarctica

Gardening with Angus – Cissus antarctica profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/cissus-antarctica-kangaroo-vine/

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.