broadleaf hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa subsp. spatulata)

Size: 
2 to 6 metres; upright shrub to small tree. Can be pruned to a hedge.
Form: 
Shrub
Natural Distribution: 
Common and widespread throughout Tasmanian and in all mainland states - from coast to inland desert.
Description: 

Broadleaf hopbush is extremely hardy and is found growing in a great variety of habitats - all over Australia. It can be pruned to create a dense hedge, or, if left to grow naturally, it usually grows quite spindly and straggly. In Taroona, it is often found growing beneath eucalypts as an understorey species.

Aboriginal people chewed (but not swallowed) its leaves to relieve toothache. They also used the leaves to treat stingray wounds, by binding over the wound. Early settlers used the plants winged fruits to brew beer. 

The word 'viscosa' comes from the Latin viscous, meaning sticky. The foliage of hopbush is sticky - especially the young leaves. The common name 'hopbush' refers to the winged fruits bearing resemblance to hops.

Its flowers are inconspicuous - its best feature is its colourful seed capsules. 

Habitat Value

Its flowers attract moths, butterflies and other insects. Its foliage provides a refuge for small birds. Wallabies browse on the foliage.

(Photos:  David Fitzgerald, Tim Rudman, Fiona Rice)

STUDENT INQUIRY QUESTIONS

Hopbush seeds are held inside its quite elaborate winged seed capsules.

Why would a plant bother to create such a structure around its seeds?

And why do its seed capsules vary in colour, including green, yellow, red, pink and purple?