Dodonaea viscosa (hopbush)
A highly variable, extremely widespread plant with numerous medicinal uses, hopbush is known by over fifty different common names.
About this species
Hopbush is a highly variable evergreen shrub or small tree with several subspecies and varieties. It occurs around most of the southern hemisphere, and its numerous useful properties have been discovered independently by people of different continents. The flowers are relatively unspectacular but its winged fruits can become red or purple as they mature, making it an attractive garden plant in the tropics and subtropics. One cultivated variety also develops purple leaves when grown in direct light. The scientific name, Dodonaea, refers to Rembert Dodoens (a 16th century Flemish royal physician, botanist and professor), viscosa to the stickiness of its leaves.
Geography & Distribution
Widely distributed through the southern hemisphere including Australia, New Zealand, South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America; also occurring in the southern United States. It is tolerant of drought and can grow in coastal environments. It is intolerant of frost and does not grow well in shade.
Dodonaea viscosa in Bolivia (Image: © J.R.I. Wood, Darwin Initiative Project 161/11/015)
Hopbush is an evergreen shrub or small tree, which grows up to about 5 m in height. The leaves are variable in shape, from elongated to spoon- or wedge-shaped, are sometimes reddish or purplish, and are usually shiny and sticky to the touch. They generally have conspicuous veins and their edges may be weakly toothed or undulating. The flowers, which grow at the ends of the branches, are either male or female, and individual plants generally bear one or the other (in which case plants of both sexes are required for successful reproduction). In other cases, however, they may bear flowers of both sexes. The pollen is transported by the wind, and the lack of petals maximises exposure to the breeze. The female flowers, after pollination, develop into 3 or 4 winged papery capsules, each with 2-3 black seeds. These capsules turn red or purple as the fruit matures.
More common names for this species:
'A'ali'i, 'a'ali'i kü makani ("'a'ali'i upright in the wind") [Hawai'i]; ake, akeake, akerantangi [Nz]; alipata [Philipines (Tagalog)]; 'apiri [Tahiti]; bandari [India]; calapinai [Philipines (Tagalog)]; candlewood, dogwood [Bahamas]; chacataya [Bolivia]; chamana [Ecuador, Peru]; chamiso [Argentina]; chanamo, hayuelo [Colombia]; chapuliztle, cuerco de calva, granadina [Mexico]; chulita [Guatemala]; florida, hopbush, hopshrub [England]; gansies [Afrikan]; gelampaya, serengan laut [Malaya]; gitaran [Puerto Rico]; granadillo, hayo [Venezuela]; hopbush, native hop [Australia]; hopwood [England]; kabunda [Congo]; kankerbos [Afrikan]; kayu berthi. letup letup [Malaya]; kayu mesen, kisig, mesen [Java]; kharata [India]; mai pek [Thailand]; manglier petites feuilles [Haiti]; mukusao, umusasa [Congo]; native birch, native lignum vitae [Tasmania]; sanatha [Pakistan]; sanatta [Sanskrit]; switch sorrel [Jamaica]; vassoura vermelha [Brazil]; vrali [Spain]; walaytinahndi [Hindi]; yxichapulin [Aztec].
Fruit of Dodonaea viscosa (Image: Wolfgang Stuppy)
To list the many uses of this plant around the world would be a huge task. However, Kew’s Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) has undertaken a comprehensive collation of uses recorded in available scientific literature. In the western part of the island of New Guinea, for example, Yali highlanders use the wood for house construction and firewood, and apply heated leaves as plasters for wounds. D. viscosa is also used for house construction elsewhere in Southeast Asia, West Africa and Brazil.
Hopwood is also used in New Guinea for making tools and fish traps, for stimulating lactation in mothers, as incense for funerals, and as a remedy for dysentery. Various parts of the plant are used traditionally in Africa and Asia for treating digestive system disorders, infections, rheumatism, respiratory complaints and skin problems. Early settlers in Australia used D. viscosa as a substitute for hops for brewing beer (as reflected in some of common names of this plant), a use also recorded from Iraq. Hopwood leaves have been reported to be chewed as a stimulant in some parts of the world (such as in Colombia and Peru, where the leaves are sometimes mixed with coca, Erythroxylum coca).
Dodonaea viscosa readily colonizes open areas and secondary forest, and is tolerant of salinity, drought and pollution. It is therefore useful for dune stabilization, restoring degraded lands and for reforestation. Its fast growth and tolerance of strong winds make it an excellent hedge and windbreak, and it is planted as a decorative shrub (e.g. in South Africa, Australia and southern U.S.A.).
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Description of seeds: Black, 2-3 mm in length and firm when ripe, contained in three- or four-winged capsules that become brittle when mature.
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: 20.
Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)
Germination testing: 100% germination when chipped with scalpel (on 1% agar, at 15, 20 and 25 oC, 8/16). 49-67% germination (pre-sowing treatment = 80% sulphuric acid for 4 minutes) on 1% agar under range of temperature & lighting conditions.
Composition values: 7.6-19% oil content (entire seed/nut). 20.4-21.4% protein content (entire seed/nut).
Kew's 'Difficult' Seeds Project - find out more about storing and germinating the seeds of Dodonaea viscosa
Dodonaea viscosa in Bolivia (Image: © J.R.I. Wood, Darwin Initiative Project 161/11/015)
Hopbush is cultivated in the Tropical Nursery, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew. It is grown from seed; some sources recommend pre-treatment of the seed in very hot water. Kew’s general potting mix is used, which consists of coir and Silvafibre, with screened loam, Osmacote and Kieserite. Alternatively, a light, well-drained soil could be used. Hopbush can also be propagated by taking cuttings; this method can be used to obtain female plants for the aesthetic value of their winged fruits. At Kew, hopbush is grown in a glasshouse zone where the minimum temperature is 16˚C, and is kept under natural light. Hopbush will tolerate lengthy dry periods and does not require heavy feeding. Occasional mealy bug and whitefly infestations are dealt with using biological controls and, if necessary, by chemical sprays.
Hopbush at Kew
Hopbush is cultivated in the Tropical Nursery, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew.
Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of hopbush are held in the Herbarium, and details of some of these specimens can be seen in the on-line Herbarium Catalogue. Specimens of hopbush are also held in the Economic Botany Collection.
South Africa Landscape - Kew at the British Museum
Between April and October 2010, Kew and the British Museum brought a small corner of South Africa to the heart of London.
The South Africa Landscape celebrated a shared vision to strengthen cultural understanding and support biodiversity conservation across the world.
Dodonaea viscosa (hopbush) was one of the star plants featured in the Landscape.
Dodonaea viscosa – sticky hop-bush. Corangamite Region Guidelines.
Growing Native Plants. Australian National Botanic Gardens
PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa)
SEPASAL (Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands)
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
- newly discovered
- around the world
- of use
- ground breaking
- english garden
- garden plants
- english heritage
Plants & Fungi blogs from Kew
09 Dec 2013
Sarah Cody explains how gap analysis is helping our partners collect the seed of crop wild relatives (CWR) for a project called 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change', run jointly by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
28 Nov 2013
Orchids have the smallest seeds in the world and they produce millions of them, but why? Kew's seed morphologist Wolfgang Stuppy explains the clever survival plan that lies behind this seemingly wasteful strategy.
13 Nov 2013
Sarah Cody explores the valuable contribution that visiting researchers to the Millennium Seed Bank make to our understanding of seed behaviour, through the experiences of Ceci and Nelson, two visitors from Brazil who are helping us unravel the mysteries of orchid seeds.
25 Jan 2013
He may be a Seed Morphologist but Wolfgang Stuppy of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank discovers there is more to the snake gourd than just some strange fruit and eccentric seeds.