Giant devil's fig (Solanum chrysotrichum)

Giant devil’s fig is a fast growing prickly shrub. It can invade grazing land and competes with native plants.

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How does this weed affect you?

Giant devil’s fig is an environmental and agricultural weed that forms dense thickets that:

  • outcompetes native plants
  • takes over paddocks
  • can injure people and stock with its spines.

Livestock poisoning

Giant devil’s fig contains steroidal glycoalkaloids, which can be poisonous if eaten in large amounts. However, there are no reported cases of poisoning.

What does it look like?

Giant devil's fig is a shrub or small tree up to 4 m tall. It has prickly stems and leaves, which are very hairy when young. Small, white flowers grow in clusters from autumn to spring. It has shallow roots.

Leaves are:

  • lobed, with 7-13 lobes per leaf
  • 17-30 cm long and 12-20 cm wide
  • hairy underneath
  • alternate along stem
  • on stalks 3-7 cm long.

Prickles are:

  • usually sparse
  • 3–9 mm long and up to 5 mm wide at base
  • slightly curved
  • present on stems, leaf stalks and the mid-vein of leaves.

Flowers are:

  • white
  • star-shaped
  • 30 - 45 mm wide
  • grow in clusters of up to 50.

Fruit are:

  • round berry
  • 10–15 mm diameter
  • yellow or orange-yellow
  • have lots of pale yellow-light brown seeds (about 2 mm wide).

Stems

Young stems are:

  • greenish
  • very hairy (hairs are red when new)
  • have prickles

Old stems are:

  • greyish
  • have thorns (3-9 mm long).

Similar looking plants

Giant devil’s fig looks similar to:

  • Devil’s fig (Solanum torvum), which has smaller leaves and flowers. Hairs on new growth are whitish or yellowish rather than red.
  • Tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum) which does not grow as tall and has larger fruit that are mottled when immature. The flowers are in clusters of up to 6 rather than up to 50 and the prickles are usually longer (12 mm).

Where is it found?

Giant devil’s fig commonly grows in the coastal areas of northern and central New South Wales. It is also a weed in Queensland, Victoria and Africa.

It originally comes from Mexico and central America.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Giant devil’s fig is able to grow in many soil types and conditions. It is found in:

  • pastures (especially overgrazed or drought stressed)
  • waterways
  • forests (especially on the edges)
  • roadsides
  • parks and gardens
  • disturbed areas.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Giant devil's fig during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2020)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

How does it spread?

Giant devil’s fig is spread by seed. Birds, flying foxes and other animals eat the fruit and spread the seed. Seeds spread by water and contaminated soil.

More information

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Control

Giant devil’s fig can be controlled by physical removal and herbicides. Gloves and protective clothing should be worn to prevent spine injuries.

Physical removal

Seedlings and small plants can be dug out with a mattock. Larger plants can be cut down and the roots dug up. 

Chemical control

Spot spraying

Plants can be spot sprayed with herbicides. Spraying will not kill the seeds in fruit so it is important to collect the fruit and dispose of it. Contact your local council for advice on how to dispose of the fruit.

Cut stump

Cut the stump and then quicly apply the herbicide gel. Apply a 3-5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply a 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm.

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 12942 Expires 30/06/2022
Glyphosate 360 g/L with Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Only products registered for aquatic use)
Rate: 2 L Roundup plus 10 g of Brushoff in 100 L of water
Comments: A wetter must be used at a rate of 500 mL per 100 L. Apply a maximum of 2 times per year at a minimal interval of 60 days. Ensure spray covers all foliage and stems as incomplete application will result in regrowth.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 12942 Expires 30/06/2022
Picloram 100 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Aminopyralid 8 g/L (Grazon Extra®)
Rate: 350 to 500 mL per 100 L of water + wetter
Comments: A wetter must be used at a rate of 500 mL per 100 L. Apply a maximum of 2 times per year at a minimal interval of 60 days. DO NOT use products containing picloram and triclopyr within 5 m of a waterway. Ensure spray covers all foliage and stems as incomplete application will result in regrowth.
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 12942 Expires 30/06/2022
Triclopyr 300 g/L + Picloram 100 g/L with Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 350 to 500 mL of Grazon plus 10g of Brushoff in 100 L of water
Comments: A wetter must be used at a rate of 500 mL per 100 L. Apply a maximum of 2 times per year at a minimal interval of 60 days. DO NOT use products containing picloram and triclopyr within 5 m of a waterway. Ensure spray covers all foliage and stems as incomplete application will result in regrowth.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
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 for stems less than 20 mm. Apply a 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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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.
Greater Sydney Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
Hunter Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
North Coast
Exclusion zone: whole region excluding the core infestation area of Richmond Valley Council, Ballina Shire Council, Lismore Council, Kyogle Council, Byron Shire Council and Tweed Shire Council
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: The plant or parts of the plant should not be traded, carried, grown or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
This biosecurity duty also applies to devil's fig (Solanum torvum)
South East Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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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 2020