Dodonaea viscosa

Sticky Hop Bush

Family: Sapindaceae

Dodonaea viscosa, the Sticky Hop Bush, is a tall multi-stemmed shrub reaching a height of usually 4 metres (possibly 8 metres but uncommonly) with a spread to about 2 metres.

It is a variable plant with a very large natural geographic distribution, occurring over all parts of NSW. It occurs over most of Australia with the exception of far-western Tasmania and pockets in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. It occurs in northern New Zealand as well as New Guinea, West Papau, Lord Howe Island (and most other Australian islands) and New Caledonia.

It occurs in a wide variety of habitats, from coastal to inland wet and dry sclerophyll woodlands and forests to mallee-shrublands, heathlands and desert-scrub. Often found on heavier soils such as clay-loams and rocky-soils but likely found on sandy soils as well.

Dodonaea is a genus containing species with either simple or compound leaves, arranged alternately. In this species, they are simple, highly variable in shape and size, varying from elliptic-linear to obovate / cuneate, to 15 cm long and 4 cm wide, margins irregularly toothed or entire; light to dark green (dull to glossy) above and paler below; often the leaves and stems can have distinctive pustules or glands and often the leaves are sticky.

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 in terminal panicles; yellow to creamy-green with each flower on a pedicel to 9 mm long.

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 2 cm 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 up to 30 mm long by 30 mm wide, papery and hairless. Spring is the flowering period. At this time, although they are inconspicuous, the male flowers sometimes attract honey bees in large numbers.

In the garden

The Sticky Hop Bush has attractive foliage and fruits. In fact many Hop Bushes have horticultural potential but unfortunately very few species are in general cultivation.

This Editor has successfully grown these plants (at a previous residence) as front-garden shrubs on a sandy soil in southern Sydney. Regular pruning resulted in plants having a dense, almost hedge-like foliage. It could be trialled as a hedge plant.

This species is hardy once established. Plant in a well-drained soil in a sunny spot. It is often sold by local native nurseries and ‘bushcare/council’ nurseries. It is used in bushland regeneration revegetation projects.


Propagate from seed or cuttings. Seed should be soaked in boiling water before sowing. We have found that cuttings take root rapidly. Propagating cuttings from female plants will ensure that you will have the attractive capsules.

Other information

D. viscosa was used by First Nations Peoples to treat toothache, cuts and stingray stings. Dodonaeas were also used by early settlers to make beer (hence the common name).

This species is a highly variable taxon and seven subspecies are recognised. Mostly – they are differ in the leaf appearance which varies considerably. NSW has the following subspecies:

  • subsp. viscosa – North Coast area of NSW and along the Queensland Coast – with the widest leaves
  • subsp. burmanniana – similar distirbution to subsp. viscosa but with narrower leaves and a taller shrub – reaching 6 metres, usually in wet sclerophyll forest;
  • subsp. angustifolia – coast, tablelands and western slopes of NSW, as well as eastern Victoria and SE Queensland; with linear-lanceolate leaves, to 5 m tall, usually in dry sclerophyll woodlands;
  • subsp. angustissima – very narrow leaves – occurring over most of inland NSW and most of Australia in the arid parts, growing to 4 metres high.
  • subsp. spatulata – similar habitats and locations to subsp. angustifolia but having obovate to spathulate leaves
  • subsp. cuneata – similar habitats and locations to subsp. angustifolia but having conspicuous short-cuneate leaves; often seen as a small shrub. It grows in inland and coastal NSW as well as over most of Victoria, scattered in some eastern parts of South Australia and SE Queensland.
  • subsp. mucronata – much of the north-western and centrak inland parts of NSW (from the Hunter Valley and out to Griffith); occurring over much of Australia, with a distinctive mucro on the apex of the leaves.

The genus is named after Rembert Dodoens, a 16th century Flemish botanist.

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.

viscosa – Latin – meaning ‘viscous’ – referring to the sticky residue on the leaves of some populations of the species.

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

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

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 National Herbarium – Dodonaea viscosa profile page        https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2007/dodonaea-viscosa.html

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