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Supplejack 2.jpg
Ripogonum scandens in New Zealand
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Liliales
Family: Ripogonaceae
Conran & Clifford[3]
Genus: Ripogonum
J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.[1][2]
Type species
Ripogonum scandens
J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.[1]

See text

Ripogonum distribution map

Ripogonum (sometimes erroneously as Rhipogonum) is a genus of flowering plants confined to eastern Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea. Until recently this genus was included in the family Smilacaceae, and earlier in the family Liliaceae, but it has now been separated as its own family Ripogonaceae (sometimes Rhipogonaceae).

Like most species of the closely related Smilacaceae, most species of Ripogonum are woody vines. Differences from Smilacaceae include that Ripogonum lacks stipules, it has a wet rather than dry stigma, its seeds and leaves contain starch, and its guard cells contain oil.[4]


The six species of Ripogonum[5] are perennials, either vines or shrubs. The leaves, which may have several different arrangements, lack stipules. The stems may have prickles. The Australian species are bisexual; others are unisexual. Individual flowers have six white to pale green or yellow tepals. The ovary has three locules with two ovules per locule. The fruit is a berry with a few brown seeds.[6]


In 1769, during explorer Lieutenant James Cook's first voyage of discovery, botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander collected specimens of "supplejack" (Ripogonum scandens) in New Zealand. The species was described in Solander's unpublished manuscript Primitiae Florae Novae Zelandiae and was illustrated by Sydney Parkinson.[7] Cook again visited New Zealand in 1773 during his second voyage. While anchored at Dusky Bay (now Dusky Sound) in the South Island of New Zealand, he remarked in his journal:[8]

In many parts the woods are so over-run with supplejacks, that it is scarcely possible to force one's way amongst them. I have seen several which were fifty or sixty fathoms long.

During this voyage naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster, assisted by his son Georg Forster collected plant specimens, the elder Forster offering the following description in his journal:[9]

A kind of climbing plant called the supple Jack by our Sailors, on account of its pliancy, bears red berries, something similar to cherries, & runs up the highest trees, climbs over to another, & after having made its way over many of them, it often comes again down & strikes fresh roots.

In 1776, the Fosters published the genus Ripogonum in the second edition of their Characteres Generum Plantarum with Ripogonum scandens as the type species.[1][2][10]

Spelling of the name(s)[edit]

The name Ripogonum is derived from the Greek words ῥιπος (rhipos, wickerwork, referring to the long shoots) and γονυ (gonu, jointed), from the jointed appearance of the stems.[11] Because the Greek word ῥιπος begins with an aspirate rho rather than plain rho, classical scholars preferred to transcribe it with rh- rather than r-.[12] Consequently, some early botanists treated the Forsters' spelling as an error to be corrected and the spelling Rhipogonum was used. Which spelling is correct depends on the interpretation of Article 60 of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, which recommends that the classical transcription rules should be followed when forming new names (Rec. 60A) and also that "the original spelling of a name or epithet is to be retained, except for the correction of typographical or orthographical errors".[13] It has been stated that the Forsters' spelling is probably deliberate and should not be liable to correction in the same way as an accidental typographical error would be.[14] The International Plant Names Index treats the spelling Rhipogonum as an "orthographic variant",[2] and the Index Nominum Genericorum database uses the spelling Ripogonum,[15] as does the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families as of March 2014.[16]

Phylogeny and classification[edit]

Until recently, Ripogonum was included in the family Smilacaceae (and earlier in the family Liliaceae along with other lilioid monocots) but it has now been separated into its own family Ripogonaceae.[3] The family name was first formally defined by Conran and Clifford in 1985.[4] Armen Takhtajan later created the same family without realising it already existed.[17]

Molecular phylogenetic studies since the early 2000s have consistently shown a close relationship between the four families Ripogonaceae, Philesiaceae, Smilacaceae and the modern narrowly defined Liliaceae. This relationship was confirmed in a 2013 study, which produced the cladogram:[18]





The authors suggested that the Ripogonaceae and Philesiaceae could be combined into a single family based both on the genetic similarity of their plastids and common morphological features.[18] The APG III system treats them as two separate families in the Liliales, both distinct from Smilacaceae.[3]


Ripogonum contains only six known species as of July 2013.[1][11][19]


Some species of this genus are used for constructing baskets,[20] ropes,[21] and fish traps[22] by indigenous peoples. In Australia and New Zealand, Ripogonum berries are known foods for some species of mammals[23] and birds.[24]

Ripogonum scandens has a fibrous root rich in starch and used as a beer flavouring.[25] Known to the Māori of New Zealand as kareao or pirita, a concentrated decoction of the supplejack root has a sweetish sarsaparilla-like scent and flavour and is soothing to the throat.[26] It was also used in treating bowel complaints, fever, rheumatism and skin diseases.[27] The edible small berry is dry and insipid but the cooked young shoots reportedly taste like fresh green beans.[25] The sap is also edible.[25]


  1. ^ a b c d "Ripogonum% [Ripogonaceae and Rhipogon~ variants]". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), Integrated Botanical Information System (IBIS) database (listing by % wildcard matching of all taxa relevant to Australia). Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "IPNI Plant Name Query Results for Ripogonum". The International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG IV" (PDF). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 181 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1111/boj.12385. Retrieved 2016-04-10. 
  4. ^ a b Conran, J. G.; Clifford, H. T. (1985). "The taxonomic affinities of the genus Ripogonum". Nordic Journal of Botany. 5: 215–219. doi:10.1111/j.1756-1051.1985.tb01650.x. 
  5. ^ Christenhusz, M. J. M. & Byng, J. W. (2016). "The number of known plants species in the world and its annual increase". Phytotaxa. Magnolia Press. 261 (3): 201–217. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.261.3.1. 
  6. ^ "Smilaceae subfam. Ripogonoideae". Flora of Australia online. Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  7. ^ "Early New Zealand Botanical Art:The Fate of the Botanical Illustrations". New Zealand Electronic Text Collection. Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Cook, James. A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World, Volume 1. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Early New Zealand Botanical Art:II Johann and George Forster". New Zealand Electronic Text Collection. Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Johann Reinhold Forster & Georg Forster (1776). "plate 25". Characteres generum plantarum, quas in itinere ad insulas maris Australis: collegerunt, descripserunt, delinearunt, annis 1772-1775. London: B. White, T. Cadell, and P. Elmsly. 
  11. ^ a b Conran, J. G.; Clifford, H. T. (1986). "Ripogonum". In George, A. S. Flora of Australia: Volume 46: Iridaceae to Dioscoreaceae (online version). Flora of Australia series. CSIRO Publishing / Australian Biological Resources Study. pp. 188–190. ISBN 978-0-644-04356-4. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Seberg, Ole; Petersen, Gitte; Wagner, Peter (17 June 2013). "To aitch or not to aitch: Ripogonum (Ripogonaceae) or Rhipogonum (Rhipogonaceae)?". Taxon. International Association for Plant Taxonomy. 62 (3): 606–608. doi:10.12705/623.7. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  13. ^ McNeill, J.; Barrie, F.R.; Buck, W.R.; Demoulin, V.; Greuter, W.; Hawksworth, D.L.; Herendeen, P.S.; Knapp, S.; Marhold, K.; Prado, J.; Reine, W.F.P.h.V.; Smith, G.F.; Wiersema, J.H.; Turland, N.J. (2012). International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) adopted by the Eighteenth International Botanical Congress Melbourne, Australia, July 2011. Regnum Vegetabile 154. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag KG. ISBN 978-3-87429-425-6. 
  14. ^ Nicolson DH and Fosberg FR, 2004. The Forsters and the botany of the Second Cook Expedition (1772–1775). Regnum Vegetabile vol. 139, p. 202
  15. ^ "Index Nominum Genericorum (ING): A compilation of generic names published for organisms covered by the ICN: International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants". Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "Ripogonum". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  17. ^ Takhtajan, Armen (1987), Sistema Magnoliofitov, pp. 306-307
  18. ^ a b Kim, Jung Sung; Hong, Jeong-Ki; Chase, Mark W.; Fay, Michael F. & Kim, Joo-Hwan (2013). "Familial relationships of the monocot order Liliales based on a molecular phylogenetic analysis using four plastid loci: matK, rbcL, atpB and atpF-H". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 172 (1): 5–21. doi:10.1111/boj.12039. 
  19. ^ Hyland, B. P. M.; Whiffin, T.; Zich, F. A.; et al. (Dec 2010). "Factsheet – Ripogonaceae". Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants. Edition 6.1, online version [RFK 6.1]. Cairns, Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), through its Division of Plant Industry; the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research; the Australian Tropical Herbarium, James Cook University. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "Manual of the New Zealand Flora: 1.Rhipogonium Forst". New Zealand Electronic Text Collection. Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  21. ^ Laing, Robert Malcolm; Blackwell, Ellen W. (1907). Plants of New Zealand. Whitcombe and Tombs. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  22. ^ "Fishing and Eeeling". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  23. ^ Tyndale-Biscoe, Hugh (2005). Life of Marsupials. CSIRO Publishing. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-643-09921-0. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  24. ^ Rowland, Peter (2008). Bowerbirds. CSIRO Publishing. pp. 58–. ISBN 978-0-643-09868-8. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  25. ^ a b c "Ripogonum scandens - J.R.Forst.&G.Forst.". Plants for a Future. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  26. ^ Baber, J. (1886). "The Medicinal Properties of some New Zealand Plants". Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961. 19. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  27. ^ Macdonald, Christina (1974). Medicines of the Maori. ISBN 0-00-211548-4. 

External links[edit]