Koster’s curse is a highly invasive perennial shrub that rapidly forms dense thickets, invading forests, plantations and pastures and smothering native vegetation. It is capable of growing in undisturbed areas, giving it the potential to cause widespread damage to sensitive native vegetation. In disturbed areas it will increase rapidly once introduced.
Koster’s curse originates from South America, from Mexico, through to northern Argentina and the Caribbean Islands. In its native range Koster’s curse is not found in forests, yet it is a highly invasive weed in tropical forests where it has been introduced.
Koster’s curse is considered a serious weed in Hawaii, tropical Pacific islands (Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu), Southeast Asia (Thailand to New Guinea) and the Indian Ocean islands (Seychelles, La Reunion, Mauritius and Madagascar). It has become naturalised on the Indian subcontinent (India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan) and in Tanzania.
In Australia, an infestation was first detected in 2001 near Julatten in far north Queensland. It is thought to have entered the country from contaminated packaging material. This infestation is currently subject to a national eradication campaign.
Koster’s curse has not been detected in New South Wales (NSW), but has the potential to invade the humid northern coastal areas.
In ideal conditions, each plant is capable of producing thousands of seeds per year. Dispersal of seed is mostly by berry eating birds, but can also be spread by contaminated soil movement.
Seeds can remain viable in the soil for at least four years. Seedling establishment is very successful and plants can reach full maturity in less than twelve months.
Koster’s curse is a bushy perennial shrub covered in reddish-brown bristly hairs. It will generally grow to around 2 m high, although it can grow up to 5 m in moist, shady conditions.
Key identification features
Koster's curse prefers tropical climates with an annual rainfall over 1200 mm, growing in both shaded areas and full sunlight.
Reviewed by: Rod Ensbey Edited by: Elissa van Oosterhout, Birgitte Verbeek
Queensland Government—Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (2011) Fact sheet—Koster’s curse Clidemia hirta
Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow LL (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK.
If you suspect you have found Koster’s curse, your local council weeds officer will assist with identification, removal and eradication.
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State Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant