Dodonaea boroniifolia

Fern-leaf Hop Bush

Family: Sapindaceae

A shrub reaching 2 metres tall, with a spread to about 1 metre.

It has a very large natural geographic range, found scattered through the entirety of the NSW coastal, tablelands, western slopes and western plains subdivisions; as far west as Ivanhoe-region. It is scattered through Queensland in disjunct patches to west of Cairns on the Atherton Tablelands. It occus in some pockets of Victoria from the far-east to as far west as around Stawell.

It is commonly found in dry sclerophyll woodland or shrubland to heathland as well as mallee-shrubland on sandy and sandstone soils.

Dodonaea is a genus containing species with either simple or compound leaves, arranged alternately. In this species, they are compound-imparipinnate with up to 15 leaflets; with leaves up to 4 cm long and leaflets about 7 mm long and 5 mm wide, with toothed apices (3 to 6 teeth) and mostly entire margins over the rest of the leaflet; the tops of leaflets have sunken glands; upper surface mid to dark green and lower surface much paler.

Dodonaea spp. have male and female flowers usually carried on different plants (dioecious). Both male and female flowers are inconspicuous and are carried in cymose-inflorescences. Flowers have 4 to 7 sepals and petals are absent. Male flowers have up to 16 stamens. Female flowers have 1 carpel. Flowers are a mix of cream to green with some brown tones. In this species, flowers are produced in leaf axils of up to 2 or 3, on pedicels to 8 mm long, with 4 sepals and 8 stamens; appearing at any time of year.

The fruits are much more conspicuous than the flowers; consiting of a 2-4-winged papery to leathery  capsule. These ripen to purple-red in colour and are about 20 mm long and wide. A hard-coated seed is held in each wing. Unfertilized flowers will produce capsules without seeds. In this species, the fruit is 20 mm long by 18 mm wide, papery and hairless.

In the garden

Dodonaea boroniifolia has both interesting foliage and colourful capsules. The 4-winged capsules that appear after flowering are an eye-catching purplish-red. The dark green foliage contrasts with the capsules.

Dodonaea boroniifolia has proved to be hardy and, once established, has low water requirements. Garden visitors often remark on the colourful capsules that are carried for many months.

Prune lightly every so often to keep plants from becoming straggly.

A useful shrub for where something hardy is needed and to provide more habitat for insects and other invertebrates. It is known to be propagated and cultivated commonly.


Propagation is by seed, best soak in hot water before sowing, and cuttings. We only propagate cuttings from female plants to maintain the colourful capsules.

Other information

This species will likely regenerate from seed after fire.

Dodonaeas were also used by early settlers to make beer (hence the common name).

Dodonaea (Hop Bushes) is a genus of about 68 species, occurring in tropical to temperate Africa, as well as the Pacific Islands and Australia. It belongs in a family with a lot of rainforest-species. A total of 61 species are native to Australia with 59 of these endemic, occurring in all states. Although reasonably common in the Australian bush, few Dodonaeas are widely cultivated. This is a pity because many species have interesting foliage and colourful fruits. NSW currently has 29 species.

Dodonaea – named in honour of Rembert Dodoens (Rembertus Dodonaeus) (1517-1585), a Flemish Physician and Botanist who is regarded as one of the fathers of modern botany. His book, The Cruydeboeck – was one of the most famous and translated plant books of the 16th Century.

boroniifolia – Latin – having foliage resembling some species of Boronia.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

Australian Native Plants Society Australia (ANPSA) – Dodonaea boroniifolia profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/dodonaea-boroniifolia

By Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke