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This pantropical family is represented in Australia by 3 genera found along the east coast of the mainland, from Cape York to coastal New South Wales, in rainforests and moist sites in sclerophyll forests.

Characteristic features of the family Piperaceae in Australia include:

  • climbers, or terrestrial or epiphytic, creeping herbs
  • leaves alternate, opposite or whorled, entire, often shining, rather thick and fleshy, often peppery-scented when crushed
  • flowers small, in terminal, axillary or leaf-opposed spikes, naked (without a perianth) but each subtended by a bract, comprising a single carpel and 2, 4 or 6 stamens.
  • fruits single-seeded drupes or berries, sometimes sticky


Evergreen shrubs, or epiphytes, or woody or herbaceous vines climbing by root suckers, or scrambling or perennial terrestrial herbs. Perennating by rhizomes. Vegetative reproduction absent, or by rhizomes or stolons. Stem nodes conspicuously swollen or not. Internal secretions not obvious. Plants glabrous, or with simple, glandular, uniseriate hairs. Leaves alternate and spiral, or distichous, or opposite, or in whorls of 3 or 4, cauline, petiolate, or peltate. Stipules absent, or present and distinct and free from the petiole, or intrapetiolar, scale-like, membranous or green and leafy, falling off early or persistent. Lamina simple, symmetric, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic or orbicular; base cuneate, rounded, cordate, lobed or auriculate; margins entire, ±flat, revolute or recurved; venation pinnate, or palmate, or parallel, with the midrib conspicuous or inconspicuous, and the tertiary venation reticulate or not; surfaces punctate or not punctate; herbaceous or succulent; distinctive odour absent or aromatic. Male and female flowers occurring on the same plant or on separate plants, or with all the flowers bisexual. Inflorescences terminal, axillary or leaf opposed, consisting of spikes. Spathes present or absent. Bracts present. Pollination by wind. Flowers odourless or fragrant, sessile. Floral disc present or absent; nectaries absent. Perianth absent. Fertile stamens (2–) 4, free or at least partly fused with ovary or style, distinct from each other, or fused by their filaments into an open or closed tube, all ±equal. Staminodes rarely present. Anthers dorsifixed or basifixed, not versatile, opening outwards by longitudinal slits or by valves, 1–2-celled. Ovary superior and sessile. Carpels 1–4 (–5), fused; ovary with 1 locule. Style terminal, single and unbranched, or absent, with the stigma ±sessile on the ovary and truncate, capitate, fimbriate or linear-terete. Ovule 1, stalked or sessile; placentation basal. Fruit derived from a single flower or several flowers (composite); each flower producing a fleshy, indehiscent berry. Disseminule macro-surface featureless or rostrate; micro-surface ±smooth, yellow, orange, red, pink, green, brown or black, glossy or dull. Seeds 1 per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight, round or shapeless.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Piperaceae has not yet been published in the Flora of Australia. It will appear in Volume 2.

Australian genera of Piperaceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)

† = some species native, others introduced


Macropiper excelsum (flowering branch)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG 

Peperomia tetraphylla (flowering plant)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG 

Peperomia tetraphylla (fruits)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG 

Piper novae-hollandiae (flowering shoot)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG