Hawkweeds (Hieracium species)

PROHIBITED MATTER: If you see this plant report it to the NSW Invasive Plants & Animals Enquiry Line 1800 680 244



Hawkweeds are highly invasive plants forming dense stands of up to 3800 plants per square metre. This is a major threat to biodiversity in conservation areas and native grasslands. Hawkweeds can also be a problem in pastures, on roadsides and in gardens.

The genus Hieracium includes several hundred species known as hawkweeds. Hawkweeds belong to the Asteraceae or daisy family and were promoted as cottage garden plants. Hawkweed plants were previously sold by nurseries and these are likely to be sources of further infestations.


Hawkweeds are native to the northern hemisphere, South Africa and South America. Several European species have become major weeds of pastures, gardens and natural areas in eastern North America, Japan, Patagonia and New Zealand.

Four Hieracium species are known to occur in Australia. These include orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW); king devil hawkweed (Hieracium  praealtum) in Victoria; and wall hawkweed (Hieracium murorum) in NSW. Small infestations have been found around ski fields where seed was introduced on equipment from New Zealand. A small population of mouse ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) was found in Tasmania in 2001. Prompt treatment of known populations of hawkweeds has limited their spread so far.

Distribution map


Hawkweed can reproduce and spread both by seed and vegetatively. Vegetative spread of plants by rhizomes (underground stems) and stolons (above ground rooting stems) is common. Stolons arise from buds at the base of the leaves.

Up to 40 000 seeds per square metre are produced in summer. Seeds have tufts that enable them to attach to hair, fur and vehicles. Seed can also be spread by wind, water, in contaminated fodder and garden waste, and even on ski or hiking equipment. The seeds can survive in the soil for many years.

Hawkweed seeds usually germinates in spring after rain. Seedlings establish readily on bare soil and disturbed areas.


The general appearance of a hawkweed plant is similar to a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) or a flatweed (Hypochaeris species). Hawkweeds are perennial herbs of variable height (15–40 cm), and have a milky sap which is seen when their stems or leaves are broken.

Key identification features

  • Leaves are stalkless, hairy on both surfaces, with smooth or slightly toothed margins and are sometimes ‘sticky’ to touch. They occur in rosettes. Occasionally 2–4 alternate leaves appear near the base of the upright flower stem.
  • Flowers are yellow, orange or red and ‘daisy-like’. They may be solitary or formed in a cluster of 5 to 30 flower heads. The flowers are 10–20 mm in diameter with square-ended petals, and grow on stems up to 40 cm. The flower stems are covered in short, stiff hairs.
  • Seeds are purplish-black and ribbed with a bristly tuft up to 6 mm long.


Hawkweeds have the potential to be serious weeds in the temperate areas of south-eastern Australia, including the Australian Alps and Tasmanian grasslands. They are frost-tolerant and competitive across a wide range of soil types, preferring cool climates with an annual rainfall above 500 mm.


2008 edition prepared by Annie Johnson; 2012 edition prepared by Elissa van Oosterhout; Reviewed by Scott Charlton, Andrew Storrie and Birgitte Verbeek.


Hawkweeds Agfact (2005) NSW DPI

Orange Hawkweed Weed Management Guide (2003) CRC for Weed Management

Williams NSG and Holland KD (2007) The ecology and invasion history of hawkweeds (Hieracium species) in Australia, Plant Protection Quarterly, 22(2): 76-80

Other publications

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Contact your local council weeds officer for assistance if you suspect you have found hawkweed. A combination of manual removal and herbicides can be used to control hawkweed, but care must be taken to ensure plants are not spread during control, and that follow up control is carried out for many years. Competitive, well managed pastures help to reduce the size and impact of infestations.

Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.

PERMIT 14558 Expires 30/06/2024
Clopyralid 300 g/L (Lontrel®)
Rate: 5 ml in 1 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application
Withholding period: 1-12 weeks (see label).
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 14928 Expires 30/09/2019
Picloram 100 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Aminopyralid 8 g/L (Grazon Extra®)
Rate: 250-500 ml per 100L plus BS 1000 or equivalent at 100 ml per 100L
Comments: Foliar application
Withholding period: Where product is used to control woody weeds in pastures there is a restriction of 12 weeks for use of treated pastures for making hay and silage; using hay or other plant material for compost, mulch or mushroom substrate; or using animal waste from animals grazing on treated pastures for compost, mulching, or spreading on pasture/crops.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 14928 Expires 30/09/2019
Triclopyr 300 g/L + Picloram 100 g/L (Grazon® DS)
Rate: 250-500 ml per 100L plus BS 1000 or equivalent at 100 ml per 100L
Comments: Foliar application
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
All of NSW Prohibited Matter
A person who deals with prohibited matter or a carrier of prohibited matter is guilty of an offence. A person who becomes aware of or suspects the presence of prohibited matter must immediately notify the Department of Primary Industries
All species in the genus Hieracium are Prohibited Matter

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW Invasive Plants and Animals Enquiry Line on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2017