Supplejack is one of the best known and commonest representatives of climbing, woody plants or lianes which were a feature of the mixed forest at lowland and montane elevations throughout New Zealand from the far north to the extreme south. Its tangled masses of strong, tough stems formed an effective barrier to speedy progress through the bush and, as the early explorers soon found, it was only with difficulty that a way could be cut through the tangled forest undergrowth. Although supplejack is still common in. much of the remaining forest, it has been greatly reduced in extent by the depredations of introduced browsing animals. Its technical name, Rhipogonum scandens, indicates its nature. The first name, meaning flexible and jointed, refers to the stems, and the second means climbing. The Maoris used the flexible stems of supplejack in a variety of ways, including the making of fish pots, and Europeans also use them for the same purpose. Supplejack belongs to the Smilax family. It has opposite, tough, and shining leaves, more or less ovate, which measure up to 12 cm in length. Male and female flowers are separate and the latter form large berries, bright red in colour.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.