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Products > Homalocladium platycladum
Homalocladium platycladum - Ribbon Bush, Tapeworm Plant

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  

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Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Polygonaceae (Knotweeds)
Origin: Pacific Islands
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Green
Bloomtime: Fall/Winter
Synonyms: [Muehlenbeckia platyclada, Polygonum platycladum]
Height: 6-10 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25 F
Homalocladium platycladum (Ribbon Bush, Tapeworm Plant) - This unusual upright and sprawling shrub grows 4 to 8 feet tall (even taller with support) with long wands of flat and leafless glossy-green stems that are 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide and jointed at nodes, giving the stem the look of a measuring tape, with small leave only produced on the new growth. The green stems replace the photosynthetic functions of the leaves, a feature described by the botanical term platyclades, and grow out of older more typically rounded stems that are a light brown color. In late fall through winter, on plants grown in bright light, appear the small greenish-white flowers nested in the stem joints, which may be followed by red fruits (reportedly edible and sweet, but not that tasty). Plant in full sun or shade but it look best and is darker green with protection from the hot sun. It can take regular irrigation yet is surprisingly drought tolerant, particularly in a shaded location and is hardy and evergreen down to about 25 F but can resprout from the base if it is damaged at lower temperatures down another 10 degrees or so. This curious looking plant draws much attention from its unusual flattened stems and makes a very interesting specimen in large pots. Out in the open garden it typically grows to about 5 feet high before cascading over and then scrambles about with growth tips again ascending but with some support it can climb fairly high up into supporting vegetation. Homalocladium platycladum is usually treated as a monotypic plant (only one species in the genus) that was first described by American botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey in 1929. It grows naturally in the area called Papuasia, including on the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and New Guinea Island. The name for the genus comes from the Greek words 'homalus' meaning "flat" and 'klados' meaning "a branch" and the specific epithet is from the descriptive botanical word platyclade, which is used to describe flattened, photosynthetic shoots, branches or stems which comes from another Greek word 'platy', that also means "flat". The common names Centipede Plant or Tapeworm Plant aptly describe the stems. We grew this plant from 2003 until 2009 but discontinued mostly because of the lack of sales, probably not because most people don't find this plant incredibly interesting, but more likely because they have a hard time figuring out how to use it in the garden. After trimming back our large sprawling specimen that has climbed 20 feet into the surrounding bamboo, we decided we must grow this fascinating plant again!  The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery's garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Homalocladium platycladum.