The Tar Vine (Boerhavia coccinea), sometimes confused with Boerhavia diffusa, is quite a common weed found throughout mainland Australia. From the genus Boerhavia, there are several species across Central Australia and the Northern Territory, with B coccinea being the most common.

A prostrate vine-like perennial, it has small pink to lilac flowers. The Boerhavia coccinea vine can trail for up to 3 metres, with the whole plant being very sticky, although in some species it is the twining stems of the plant and the fruit that are very sticky.

The roots of the tar vine are an important food source during times when food is scarce, the root being eaten raw or lightly roasted by Aboriginal people. The skin is bitter, the roasting enabling the removal of the bitter skin. The tar vine is fibrous and bland.

The green yeperenye caterpillar (one of the large hawkmoths) is often found on tar vine, the caterpillar being an additional important food source.

The Pitjantjatjara people are known to gather the younger and mostly sticky parts of the vine and spread them around small waterholes. Small birds would come to the water hole and become entangled in the vine and were then easy to catch for food.

Yeperenye Caterpillar (Hyles livornicoides)
Yeperenye Caterpillar (Hyles livornicoides)
Yeperenye / Yipirinya Caterpillar, Alice Springs, NT
Yeperenye / Yipirinya Caterpillar, Alice Springs, NT

More info on Alice Springs Tar Vine and Instar of the Hyles livornicoides.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Eudicots
  • Order: Caryophyllales
  • Family: Nyctaginaceae
  • Genus: Boerhavia
  • Species: B. coccinea
  • Binomial name: Boerhavia coccinea
  • Synonyms:
    • Boerhavia caribaea
    • Boerhavia viscosa

Footnote & References

  1. Boerhavia spp. (tar vine), Bushfires & Bushtucker by Peter Latz, IAD Press, Alice Springs, NT, ISBN: 0-949659-96-7, p130-131

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