Cape ivy (Delairea odorata)

Cape ivy is a fleshy, climbing vine with glossy green leaves and small yellow flowers. It outcompetes native plants and is poisonous to people and animals.

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How does this weed affect you?

Cape ivy is a fast growing environmental weed that can form dense carpets on the ground and smother shrubs and trees. It:

  • outcompetes native plants and prevents seedlings from growing
  • reduces food and habitat for native animals
  • increases soil erosion along waterways
  • is poisonous to people and animals.

Human poisoning

Cape ivy leaves contain two types of toxins (pyrrolizidine alkaloids and xanthones). If enough leaves are eaten it can lead to liver problems.  

What to do if a person is poisoned:

  • If the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • If the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.
  • If going to a hospital take a piece of the plant for identification.

Livestock poisoning

Cape ivy is not very palatable and unlikely to be eaten. However, it is known to be toxic to mammals, fish and spiders.

What does it look like?

Cape ivy is a long-lived vine that grows on the ground, on structures and over other plants. It can climb up trees high into the canopy where it can densely cover the vegetation looking like a green and yellow blanket. The stems and leaves die off in late summer and early autumn and are replaced by new shoots that use the old, dried stems as climbing support. 

Leaves are:

  • glossy green
  • fleshy
  • 3-8 cm wide and 3-8 cm long
  • strong smelling when crushed
  • with 5-7 pointed lobes
  • attached to stalks 1.5-7 cm long, often with a pair of kidney-shaped stipules (leaf-like structures) at the base.

Flowers are:

  • yellow
  • cylindrical and 2-3 mm in diameter
  • sweet smelling
  • made up of a dense cluster of 10-12 small tubular florets.
  • grow at the tips of branches or in leaf forks in clusters of 15-50 heads
  • present in winter or early spring.

 Seeds are:

  • reddish-brown
  • ribbed
  • 2 mm long with a ring of silky, white hairs 5-6 mm long (pappus).

Stems are:

  • 3-8 m long and twining
  • hairless, thin and rounded
  • slightly fleshy
  • purplish when young, turning green, then creamy-brown when older.

Roots are:

  • shallow and form large mats, up to 30 cm thick
  • fibrous or woody
  • hardy
  • include rhizomes and stolons.

Rhizomes are underground stems that usually grow horizontally in the soil. Stolons (runners) are thin stems that run horizontally along the ground.

Similar looking plants

Cape ivy looks similar to:

  • Several senecio species (Senecio angulatus, S. tamoides, and S. macroglossus), but these plants all have larger flowers with obvious petals.
  • English ivy (Hedera helix), but this plant has greenish flowers with obvious petals and is not fleshy.

Where is it found?

Cape ivy grows in southern and eastern Australia, including New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.

It is mainly found in coastal parts of New South Wales south of Brunswick Heads. It has been grown as a garden plant.

Cape ivy is native to South Africa. It is also a weed in New Zealand and the United States of America.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Cape ivy prefers to grow in damp, partially shady areas but it will also grow in deep shade and full sun. It tolerates drought, waterlogging and some salinity but is sensitive to frost.

Cape ivy is found:

  • in woodlands and forests
  • along waterways and gullies
  • along roadsides and fence lines
  • in neglected areas
  • in gardens.

How does it spread?

By seeds

Seeds can be spread by wind, water and by people dumping garden waste. The hairs on seeds can stick to fur and clothing and be spread by people and animals.

By plant parts

The most common way for cape ivy to spread is via stem and root fragments. Small plant fragments can establish easily and quickly. Root and stem fragments can be spread by:

  • water
  • machinery e.g. slashers
  • people dumping garden waste
  • contaminated soil.

References

Blood, Kate (2001) Environmental weeds: a field guide for SE Australia. R.G. and F.J. Richardson.

CABI (2020). Delairea odorata (Cape ivy) In: Invasive Species Compendium. Wallingford, UK: CAB International. Retrieved 24 March 2020 from: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/18265

DiTomaso, J. M., Kyser, G. B., Oneto, S. R., Wilson, R. G., Orloff, S. B., Anderson, L. W., ... & Mann, J. J. (2013). Weed Report: Delairea odorata Cape-ivy In: Weed control in natural areas in the western United States. Weed Research and Information Center, University of California, 544. Retrieved 24 March 2021 from https://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_D/Delairea.pdf

McKenzie, R. (2020). Australia's poisonous plants, fungi and cyanobacteria: A guide to species of medical and veterinary importance. CSIRO PUBLISHING.

Muyt, A. (2001). Bush invaders of south-east Australia: a guide to the identification and control of environmental weeds in south-east Australia. R.G. and F.J. Richardson.

PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Retrieved 20 January 2021 from: https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Delairea~odorata

Richardson, F. J., Richardson, R. G., & Shepherd, R. C. H. (2011). Weeds of the south-east: an identification guide for Australia (No. Ed. 3). CSIRO.

More information

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Control

Cape ivy can be controlled by herbicides and hand pulling or digging out plants. The key is to follow up any control work to make sure the plant has not regrown or spread. Cape ivy can quickly re-infest areas if follow up control is not undertaken.

Prevention

To prevent cape ivy infestations:

  • don’t dump whole plants or stems – dispose of them properly
  • make sure vehicles and machinery are free of seeds and plant material when moving into weed free areas.

Early detection

Learn to identify cape ivy and remove plants early to reduce the chance of spread.

Slashing and mulching

Avoid slashing and mowing as this can spread cape ivy to weed free areas.

Physical removal

Hand pulling or digging out plants is the most common way to get rid of small areas of cape ivy. To avoid damaging plants covered with cape ivy, cut stems at ground level and leave to dry out on trees and shrubs, but take care to:

  • remove all stems that are in contact with the ground
  • dig out and remove all root material
  • dispose of plants properly.

Try to control cape ivy before it seeds.

Chemical control

Spraying

To limit off-target damage to plants covered with cape ivy:

  • cut stems at waist height
  • move intact stems away from native plants
  • spray stems with recommended herbicide.

Regrowth can be spot sprayed with herbicides.

Cut stump

Cut the stems horizontally back to the rhizome and apply the gel across the surface of the rhizome.

Scrape and paint

Cut and scrape the stems and apply the herbicide mix within 15 seconds of scraping.

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 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 50 parts water
Comments: Spot spray application
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump/scrape stem.
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 application. Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel across the cut surface on the rhizome.
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.

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

Reviewed 2021