Monday, May 21, 2012

Pipturus argenteus

This Australian native plant is useful both as a bush food plant and as a medicinal plant.

Pipturus argenteus
Native Mulberry

Small tree or shrub <8m. Petioles; 0.5-9cm. Blades; ovate to narrow ovate. Apex; acuminate. Base; cuneate to obtuse. Margin; serrate. Leaf; 3.5-18cm x 1.8-8cm. Lower leaf surface; hoary white pubescent. Inflorescence; axillary, 3-7 clusters of flowers along a spike.
Fruits; white/transparent  ~1cm, pitted irregularly.
Occurs naturally in rainforest margins, native to south-eastern QLD. Easily cultivated in backyards, prefers subtropical area. I have this growing ~2km from the coast, in sandy soil.
Flowers  summer to winter
Fruits   May-?
Etymology   “The generic name Pipturus is derived from the Greek pipto, to fall, and oura, tail, in reference to the caducous stigma.” From

  Figure 1. Leaves, note pubescence on underside of left leaf.

Figure 2. Fruit

Figure 3. Bark is olive green/brown,  with raised, textured striations that are warm brown.

Figure 4. Leaves are alternate.

Pipturus argenteus is a great plant, and very easy to grow. I never watered it, and it thrived. I have two growing, and one has a shrub habit, while the other (younger) has a tree habit, and is ~4.5 metres high, at ~3 years old. I have seen this plant self seed very easily in semi-natural rainforest, but it has not done so on my property yet.

A member of the Nettle family, this plant has NO sting. The fruit are quite nice, not particularly flavoursome, but gently sweet with a delicate flavour, and very soft, in fact it is difficult to pick them without squishing them, so they may never make it as a commercial crop despite being more-ish. They are eaten raw, but I suppose that they could be cooked.

Whilst I am not aware of any medicinal usage of this plant in Australia (that does not mean that there was none, there probably was, and if you know of any, please let me know), research conducted in Papua New Guinea states that it was used (on Buka Island) for several ailments. For coughs and stomach aches, the leaves are crushed with a little water, the solution is then squeezed out and drunk twice daily. For centipede bites, the scraped roots are chewed with betel nut and lime, the mixture then being rubbed into the bites, or leaves are crushed and applied directly to the bite. To help fresh wounds or tooth-ache, the sap is applied directly. Additionally, in Simbu Province, the sap feom the scraped inside bark is heated with the leaf of Rubus ledermanii and eaten daily to soothe a bad cough.

Edit; on the 17 August (2 days ago) I pruned my Pipturis, and found the green bark stripped off in long strips, I plaited some, and it holds together really well. Two days later, it is dry but still strong. I am reasonably strong and I couldn't break it by pulling. I think if three plaits were plaited together, or if it was made 2-ply before plaiting it could be used for many purposes. Plus, it is winter - the dry season here, so for bark to strip in winter is rare-ish.

It is almost 90cm long.

These photos were taken 2 days after making the cordage.

It is about 2mm thick.


Holdsworth, D. 1980. Traditional medicinal plants of the North Solomons Province Papua New Guinea. Quart. J. Crude Drug Res, 18;33-34

Holdsworth, D, & Sakulas, H. 1992. High altitude medicinal plants of Papua New Guinea Part II. Mount Wilhelm, Simbu province. Int. J. Pharmacognosy, 30; 1-4

Stanley, t, & Ross, E. 1995. Flora of south-eastern Queensland. Department of Primary Industries

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