QDPI&F Trade Display

10th Queensland Weed Symposium,
July 2009


Postal Address:

Weed Society of Queensland Inc.
PO Box 18095
Clifford Gardens
QLD 4350

 

 

 

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HIPTAGE
(Hiptage benghalensis)


Origin

Hiptage is a member of the Malpighiaceae plant family and is native to India and south-eastern Asia (i.e. Sri Lanka, southern China, Taiwan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines).
 


Hiptage infestation in a riparian forest canopy near Mossman in northern Queensland

Current Distribution in Queensland

Hiptage (Hiptage benghalensis) has been cultivated as a garden ornamental throughout the warmer temperate, sub-tropical and tropical regions of the world, including the coastal districts of Queensland.

It has become naturalised in the Brisbane suburbs of Fig Tree Pocket and Moggill (near the Brisbane River), at Currumbin on the Gold Coast, and near Mossman in northern Queensland. The infestation in northern Queensland is the largest, and is located along the Mossman River and on the edge of the Mossman Gorge National Park. In very recent times small infestations have also been located in Toowong, Indooroopilly and the City Botanic Gardens.
 


A younger plant growing under trees in Brisbane


Habitat


This species is most commonly naturalised in closed forests and along waterways (i.e. in riparian vegetation). It prefers moist and shady habitats. However, it has also been found growing in suburban gardens, in hedges and in waste areas (apparently where it has not been deliberately planted).

 

 

 


Hiptage growing as a woody shrub in a garden

Impact

Hiptage has become weedy on several islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as in Florida in the USA. It is a problem species in Hawaii and has been reported to be particularly invasive on La Reunion and Mauritius in the Mascarene Islands. It can smother native vegetation and even choke large trees in natural forests, and has also been observed to form impenetrable thickets. Because of its invasiveness it has been included on the Global Invasive Species Database list of “100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Species”, alongside the fire ant and cane toad.

In Australia it has the potential to be invasive throughout the wetter coastal districts of Queensland, north-eastern NSW, northern NT and northern WA.
 

Description

Hiptage is a variable plant and may range in nature from a large woody vine (i.e. liana) climbing into the canopy of forests to a shrubby plant (particularly when it is regularly pruned in cultivation or not growing under trees).


Very young stems covered in tiny whitish hairs


Young greyish-green branches covered in lenticels

The tips of its branches are usually greenish in colour and covered in tiny whitish or yellowish coloured hairs. Young branches are greyish-green in colour and have numerous tiny whitish raised spots, called lenticels. Older stems are grey in colour and can be quite woody in nature or twisted into very long and thick vines (i.e. lianas). Very old vines may be up to 15 cm thick and covered in a light brown coloured scaly bark.


Older woody climbing stems that are grey and twisted


Very old stems that are covered in brown scaly bark

The leaves of hiptage are simple and borne in pairs along the stems on short stalks (i.e. petioles). These leaves are relatively large (6-20 cm long), are usually somewhat elongated in shape (i.e. lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate), and have long-pointed tips (i.e. attenuate apices).


Paired leaves borne on short stalks


Close-up of elongated leaf with long-pointed tip

The flowers of hiptage are fragrant and borne in compact clusters in the forks of the upper leaves. Each flower cluster can contain 10-30 flowers. The individual flowers have five rounded petals 1-2 cm long with fringed margins. These petals are white or tinged with pink and one has bright yellow markings. Flowering may occur throughout the year, but seems to be most prominent in early spring in Brisbane.


Flower clusters in the leaf forks during spring


Close-up of white flowers with yellow markings

The fruit of this species is very distinctive, it is winged and is known as a samara. Each fruit has three papery wings 2-5 cm long. The developing fruit are green or reddish-green in colour, but eventually turn pale brown when mature. Each fruit contains 1-3 rounded seeds.


Developing immature fruit of hiptage


Mature three-wimged fruit just prior to being shed

Reproduction and Dispersal

This species reproduces only by seed, with are dispersed in the winged fruit. These wings act like helicopter blades and enable the fruit to be spread considerable distances by wind, especially when being released from high in the forest canopy. Fruit that have already fallen to the ground may be spread further by water or in dumped garden waste.


A very young hiptage seedling


An older seedling

Legislation

This species is currently not declared in Queensland, or for that matter, in any other states of Australia. However, efforts have been made by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Local Governments to control known outbreaks in Queensland.


Young hiptage plant


Controlling a hiptage infestation near Mossman

Further Information

Global Invasive Species Database: http://www.issg.org/database/welcome/. Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG).

Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER), Plant threats to Pacific ecosystems: http://www.hear.org/pier/species/hiptage_benghalensis.htm. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Environmental Weeds of Australia. DVD-ROM. Centre for Biological Information Technology (CBIT), The University of Queensland.
 

Created by: webmaster@wsq.org.au
for The Weed Society of Queensland Inc.

Last updated: 12 February 2010