Miconia (Miconia species)

WEED ALERT: STATE PROHIBITED WEED
If you see this plant contact your council weeds officer, the NSW Invasive Plants & Animals Enquiry Line 1800 680 244 or email weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Also known as: velvet tree

Profile

Impact

Miconia, also known as velvet tree, is an unusually aggressive invader of moist habitats, and a potentially devastating weed of Australian rainforests. It has the ability to thrive in heavy shade and sunlight, and can cause irreversible damage by forming dense thickets in the understorey and completely replacing the native vegetation. Half of Tahiti’s native plants are considered to be directly endangered due to miconia.

Distribution

Miconia is native to South America and can be found from Mexico to Brazil. In Europe, miconia is considered to be a botanical curiosity, and has been cultivated in glasshouses by collectors since the 1850s.

Miconia is a serious weed in Hawaii and French Polynesia where it has devastated the native flora and fauna. It is also naturalised in Sri Lanka and Jamaica. Miconia was introduced to a garden in Tahiti in 1937, and now grows on 70% of the island - described as the ‘green cancer’ of Tahiti. The plant has a similar history in Hawaii and is locally described as the ‘purple plague’.

Miconia was introduced to Australia as a garden ornamental and was first recorded in Townsville in 1963. During the 1970s and 80s it was a popular ornamental plant and was sold by several nurseries in Queensland and New South Wales (NSW). Naturalised populations are known to occur in far north Queensland and small infestations or backyard plants have been found in Tully, Innisfail and the Cairns region.

In 2003 sixteen miconia plants were seized from a nursery on the far north coast of NSW. Since 2010 thirty-five miconia plants have been found in the Tweed and Byron Shire Council areas, including cultivated and wilding plants. These have been removed as part of a national eradication program.

Distribution map

Spread

Mature trees (4-5 years old) can flower and fruit three times a year producing up to 5 million seeds. Birds are the primary vectors of dispersal but small mammals are also major contributors. Because the seeds stick to mud on shoes, clothing and machinery, humans also contribute to spread.

Seeds remain viable in the soil for 5 years or more. Germination requirements are varied with most seeds remaining dormant until stimulated by sunlight from an opening in the canopy, however seeds will also germinate under heavy shade.

Miconia can also spread vegetatively through layering and resprouting.

Description

Miconia grows as a small tree, up to 15 metres tall.

Key identification features

  • Leaves are commonly 60 to 70 cm long (maximum 1 m), dark green with three prominent veins on the upper surface and distinctly purple-blue undersides. Young stems and leaves have velvety hairs.
  • Flowers are numerous, sweet-scented, white to pink in colour, and very short-lived (dying 12 to 24 hours after opening).
  • Fruit is dark purple and about 1 cm in diameter. The fruit is sweet-tasting and very attractive to birds. Each fruit contains between 50 and 200 tiny seeds that are about 0.5 mm in diameter.

Habitat

Miconia is a rainforest tree, and the climate throughout much of northern and eastern Australia is ideal for the plant.

Acknowledgements

Written by: Jeff Burton 2003; 2012 edition reviewed by: Rod Ensbey, Alan Maguire; Edited and prepared by: Elissa van Oosterhout

References

Csurhes SM (1997) ‘Miconia calvescens, a potentially invasive plant in Australia’s tropical and sub-tropical rainforests,’ Proceedings of the first regional conference on Miconia control, Tahiti, 72–77

NSW Agriculture State Weed Management Plan for Miconia

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Control

A range of control methods is available for miconia, but control needs to be carried out carefully to prevent the re-establishment of massive numbers of seedlings from the soil seedbank. Contact your local council weeds officer for assistance with identification and control of miconia.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
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 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate per 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump or stem-scraping application.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


Picloram 44.7 g/kg + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump/stem injection application. Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm .
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Legal requirements

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Noxious Weeds (Weed Control) Order 2014 published in the NSW Government Gazette, detailing weeds declared noxious in New South Wales, Australia, under the Noxious Weeds Act 1993. The Order lists the weed names, the control class and the control requirements for each species declared in a Local Control Authority area.

All species in the Miconia genus are declared.

Area Class Legal requirements
All of NSW 1 State Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant

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Reviewed 2014