There are 19 known Australian Capparis species, most growing in the tropical north of Australia, although there are a few that thrive in the arid parts of Australia. Among the species found in Central Australia are the Wild Passionfruit (Capparis spinosa var. nummularia).

A native Australian relative of the well-known caper bush, the Wild Passionfruit (Capparis spinosa var. nummularia) bears fruits from the beginning of summer until the first frosts of winter. The fruits are delicious and the flower buds can also be pickled. The large white flowers have a delicate scent and attract the white caper butterflies whose caterpillar can quickly eat and strip all the leaves from the bush. The bush does usually recover rapidly.

The following shows the flower, with the stamen (the male part of the flower), that surround the elongated gynophore, supporting the gynoecium (the part that develops into the edible fruit).

A great bush tucker plant that grows into a medium sized sparse to dense shrub. When the fruit ripens, the skin turns orange and splits open to reveal little black seeds. The fruit is best pick green to ripen off the bush for human consumption. The yellow pulp is consumed, with a taste similar to other passionfruit. The black seeds can be very bitter. The seeds are hot and spicy when crushed.

The plant grows naturally around the coast and inland along rivers and creeks in rocky soils in QLD, NT and WA.

Common name
Wild Passionfruit, caperbush, Merne arrutnenge (in local Arrernte language of Central Australia – pronounced arr-ORT-nung-a).

WARNING Extreme care must be taken when identifying edible food plants and those used in bush medicine. Some bush foods are only edible at different stages of the plant cycle, or when treated appropriately. Bush medicine should only be used under the guidance of a qualified physician. Information here is only provided for research. You should always seek experts in the field to confirm the identification of the plant and whether they are edible or appropriate.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Eudicots
  • Clade: Rosids
  • Order: Brassicales
  • Family: Capparaceae
  • Genus: Capparis
  • Species: C. spinosa
  • Subspecies: C. s. subsp. nummularia
  • Trinomial name: Capparis spinosa subs