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Hibbertia scandens (Snake Vine)

Updated on July 11, 2012
Hibbertia scandens Snake Vine Flower
Hibbertia scandens Snake Vine Flower | Source

The gorgeous, bright yellow flower above belong to Hibbertia scandens, commonly called snake vine, golden guinea flower or climbing guinea flower. This scambling vine is a native Australian plant and is one of the showiest of all Hibbertia species with good potential to be used in home gardens as an ornamental.

In the wild it can be found over a range that extends from the south-eastern corner of New South Wales to half-way up the eastern cost of Queensland. It is not endangered or threatened in the wild. There is region variation in the appearance of this species, populations nearer to the coast in general tend to have hairier leaves, with a more rounded tip than those of inland populations.


Snake Vine (Hibbertia scandens) Taxonomy

Snake vine belongs to the family Dilleniaceae which apart from many species of ornamental Hibbertia also includes the elephant apple tree (Dillenia indica) which produces large fruit that are used in Indian cusine.

This species was first decribed by Carl Willdenow, a german botanist who originally place Hibbertia scandens within the genus Dillenia. Later on in 1805 it was placed into the genus Hibbertia by a Swedish botanist named Jonas Dryander, and it has remained there ever since.

The species epithet, scandens is derived from Latin and means ‘to climb’ in reference to the scrambling growth habit of this vine.


Snake Vine (Hibbertia scandens) Aesthetics

Both the flowers and foliage of snake vine are quite ornamental in appearance.

The stamens of the yellow flowers are prominent making these flowers reminiscent of European buttercups only much larger, averaging 6cm (2 inches) in diameter.

Snake vines can flower any time of year, with flowering being concentrated from late Spring to mid Summer.

Each flower will only last one or two days however a well-established plant will flower heavily and consistently during the flowering season.

The scent of the flowers is sweet but with unpleasant acrid undertones that remind me of mothballs or urine. Thankfully you have to get quite close to the flower before you begin to smell it. There may potentially be cultivars available that do not have this scent.

The leaves occur alternately along the stem and are about 7cm (2.5 inches) in length and elliptical in shape. The upper surface of the leaves is glossy and deep green in colour, while the lower surface is hairy.

Under ideal conditions the vines will form a large clump about 5m wide and can smoother small nearby plant so be sure to leave it plenty of room to expand when choosing a site to grow it.


Additional Merits of Snake Vine (Hibbertia scandens)

Apart from aesthetics there are several additional features that make Hibbertia scandens suitable for commercial cultivation.

The first is that Hibbertia scandens is vigorous and adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions and will even grow well in shade, although with reduced flowering. In addition it’s suitable for growing in coastal areas and is tolerant of salt sprays. In the wild it grows in a wide range of varying habitats from coastal sand dunes to mountain tops which experience frosts. It does however require excellent drainage, however this is a common trait of most plants sold in nurseries including most native Australian species on the market.

The second is that they will readily strike from cuttings, allowing for a saleable plant in a shorter period of time than if grown from seed. In fact seed germination of Hibbertia scandens can be slow and problematic.

Finally it’s an attractive utility plant, it can be grown as a screen on a trellis along a fence. It is particularly well suited for growing up and covering away an ugly old chain link fence.


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