Billardiera is a small genus of about 25 species, mainly light climbers or small shrubs. All occur only in Australia with the majority being found in Western Australia. The genus includes species formerly included in the genus Sollya. Relatively few species are cultivated.
Billardiera scandens is the most widespread species in the genus and can be found in coastal heaths, open forests and semi arid mallee scrub. There are three recognised varieties: var.scandens, var.brachyantha and var.sericata. The differences are relatively minor variations in the arrangement of the flowers and the leaves.
The species is a twining plant which tends to scramble among shrubs and grasses growing nearby. It is not especially vigorous and never dominates other plants. The leaves are linear to lance-shaped from 10 to 40 mm long. The flowers are bell shaped to 25 mm long and pale yellow in colour. Peak flowering period is spring but flowers may also occur at other times. The flowers are followed by green, fleshy fruits containing many seeds in a sweet pulp.
This is a hardy plant for a range of soils and climates. It will tolerate full to semi shade. It is a useful “filler” plant for planting among other shrubs. It can also be trained on a trellis. The flowers attract honey-eating birds.
B.scandens, along with other species including B.cymosa and B.longifolia is attracting interest as a “bush food” species. The ripe fruits are said to have a flavour similar to stewed apples.
Propagation from seed is unreliable and can occur after many months but may not occur at all. The species can be propagated reasonably easily from cuttings using firm, current season’s growth.
Fruit and flower of Billardiera scandens
Photo: Brian Walters