Cissus hypoglauca

Water Vine, Native Grape

Family: Vitaceae

A vigorous common vine, found along almost the entire east coast of NSW, from south of Townsville to eastern Victoria, growing in warmer rainforest but also found in littoral rainforest near beaches and wet sclerophyll forest.

Has stems to more than 20 m long. Some plants can grow very long through the tree canopy to 10s of metres long with basal stems as thick as a human arm.

Leaves are compound with 5 leaflets (3 on juvenile plants) in a palmate (hand-like) arrangement, alternating up the stems, with each leaflet 15 cm long and to 5 cm wide. The stems have leaf-opposed tendrils (modified leaves called tendrils opposite each leaf) which enable the plant to climb; a feature of species in this grape family. New growth is rusty-hairy with leaflets appearing red.

Flowers occur mostly in spring–summer and are in large branched clusters (panicles), up to 20 cm long x 10 cm wide, appearing at stem ends and opposite the leaves with flowers about 0.5 cm across.

Being in the grape family, the fruit is a berry, blue/purple to blackish in colour, often with a greyish bloom, globular, about 10 to 15 mm in diameter.

In the garden

This plant can be easily cultivated in the right conditions. It is suited to moist shady gardens with some room to move, as it can grow quite vigorously. It could be used to cover an undesirable wall or grown along a balcony railing. Caution is advised regarding planting as it can be very vigorous. Perhaps consider vines that grow to lesser dimensions.

It can be grown as an indoor plant in a pot with good results, provided it is given some support.

This plant provides abundant food and shelter for birds and small animals. The stunning berries may be eaten raw and provide a delicious watery snack but do leave an acrid aftertaste that can be slightly irritating.


Can be propagated from seed.

Other information

This species does grow in fire prone environments and likely regenerates from seed and the vigorous root system.

The fruit was part of the Aboriginal diet. As well strong loops of the vine were used to aid climbing trees to collect honey from native bees nests.

Drinking water was obtained by cutting the stems and letting them hang.

Cissus – is derived from the Greek word kissos (κισσος), meaning “ivy”
hypoglauca – from the Greek; hypo (υπο) meaning “below”, “under” or “sub”, and glauca, Latin for “blue” indicating that the undersides of the leaves are almost “blue”. It was initially described in 1854 by American botanist Asa Gray (1810 – 1888) who is considered the most important American botanist of the 19th century.

Not considered at risk in the wild.


By Jeff Howes