Rhoicissus tomentosa

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Botanical Name
Rhoicissus tomentosa
Vitaceae -

The grape family.

roy-KISS-us toh-men-TOH-suh
Common Name(s)
English: Wild Grape; Bush Grape; African Grape; Forest Grape; Monkey Rope; Wild Vine
Afrikaans: Bosdruif; Wildedruif; Bostou; Bobbejaantou
IsiXhosa: isaQoni ; iDiliya ; uchithibhunga
IsiZulu: isiNwazi ; Isinwazana
Sesotho: Moaparo
Tshivenda: Dyathoho; Makhulu-wa-khundwi
siSwati: isiNwati
Xitsonga: Kundzu
Plant Group
  • Climber / Creeper Climber: a plant that climbs using tendrils or if given support. Creeper: a plant running along the ground, often rooting as it goes.
Plant Size
  • Large
    Tree18m to 25m
    Shrub3m to 4m
    Perennial/ground cover75cm to 1m
    Bulb80cm to 1.2m
    Succulent1m to 1.5m
  • Canopy Shade Canopy shade is found below closely grown trees where some light filters through. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Deep / Full Shade Shade below spreading evergreen trees where sun's rays are unable to penetrate the canopy at any time. For light sensitive plants
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Attractive fruits, berries or seeds Brightly coloured fruits or berries increase and extend the visual impact of the plant and are especially attractive to birds and other small wildlife.
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Tender A plant that will not survive any frost or low winter temperatures.
  • Water Moderate These plants will need some extra watering compared to water-wise plants. Plant them together, in at least some shade and in a convenient proximity to the house so that grey water can be utilised during times of drought.
Specific Information

Although Rhoissus tomentosa occasionally forms a small tree, it is most often a climber, its rope-like stems reaching through and over shrubs and trees to a height of 20 meters, meandering from one tree top to the next. Young growth and tendrils are initially covered with rusty hairs which disappear with age. The large leaves are circular to kidney-shaped, smooth and shiny above with rust-coloured hairs below, usually toothed or slightly lobed. The loose bunches of rounded fruits ripen from May to June, turning from green to red to purplish-black. They are edible, with whitish flesh and a pleasant acidic flavour. They are eaten by both birds and mammals.

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small flowers in dense clusters on 2 cm stems

  • Spring to Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • creamy-green
Growth Rate
  • Moderate Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Attracts Birds This plant will attract birds.
  • Boundary A plant useful for planting around the edges of the property to form a green or colourful backdrop, an impenetrable hedge, to hide walls or create privacy.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Ground Cover Low-lying plants that spread fast, require minimal maintenance, and cover large expanses or bare areas between bulbs or shrubs. They provide protection from erosion and drought and improve the visual appearance of the garden.
  • Screen A tall hedge of suitable plants planted closely together and used as a windbreak, to block a bad view, to separate parts of the garden or as a backdrop.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

from the Western Cape, along the coastal strip through the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, inland to Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province, then north to Zimbabwe and Malawi, in gorges, riverine and forest habitats, clambering through and over trees and shrubs

Planting Suggestions

Rhoicissus tomentosa is reportedly easy to grow from seed,or stem cuttings taken in spring or summer. I have not come across it for sale in any nursery thus far.  Plant  rooted cuttings or sturdy seedlings in a shady spot below shrubs or trees where it can ramble. It can be used to cover a wall but will need a trellis of some sort so the tendrils will have something on which to cling. It is also attractive over a pergola or fence. It can be grown indoors - being a forest dweller it can adjust to low light. Water regularly until well established and use mulch and compost  to retain moisture and ensure strong, healthy growth. 

The plant in my garden is completely water wise, being reliant on our erratic rainfall supply and has survived long, frequent droughts. However it is far less vigorous and slower growing than plants that receive more moisture.

Lorraine's Garden Notes

April 2013: I was a little unsure about the use of this plant as a ground cover but I discovered that my plant has sent out quite a few tendrils along the ground in the vacant plot behind my property where it looks most attractive.  

I tried with ladder and rake to reach some fruit to pick as I want to taste it, and collect some seeds, but was unsuccessful. The fruit forms right at the upper levels, way beyond my reach. Oh well - the birds are enjoying them, especially the beautiful Knysna Tauraco (Tauraco corythaix), previously classified as the Knysna loerie.

Medicinal Uses

In traditional medicine poisonous, tuberous rootstock is boiled in milk and used as a vermifuge for calves. The more flexible branches are used to tie down thatching and in basket making.

The ripe fruits can be used for jam, wine and vinegar.

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