Lady-of-the-night (Cestrum nocturnum)

Also known as: night flowering Jasmine, Queen of the night

Lady-of-the-night is a shrub up to 4 m tall with white berries. All parts of this plant are poisonous to humans and livestock.

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How does this weed affect you?

Lady-of-the-night forms dense thickets that outcompetes native plants. It is poisonous to people and animals.

Human poisoning

All parts of this plant are poisonous to humans. The strong fragrance present at night can cause breathing difficulties and irritation of the nose and throat. It can also cause intense headaches, nausea and dizziness. 

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 

All parts of the plant, especially immature berries, contain toxic alkaloids that are known to be poisonous to cattle and poultry.

What does it look like?

Lady-of-the-night is an upright perennial shrub or small tree to 4 m high.

Leaves are:

  • 10–15 cm long and 4–7 cm wide
  • oval to spearhead shape
  • on stalks 5–10 mm long
  • hairy along the midrib on the underside of the leaf.

Flowers are:

  • greenish, pale yellow or cream
  • tubular with 5 triangular lobes that open at night
  • up to 2.5 cm long
  • in branching clusters at the end of short stems
  • present in spring–summer.

Fruit are:

  • green when young ripening to white
  • 8–12 mm wide
  • round or oval shaped with up to 10 seeds.

Stems are:

  • sparsely hairy especially on younger stems
  • flexible and bend over when laden with fruit.

Similar looking plants

Lady-of-the-night looks like other poisonous weeds:

  • Green cestrum (Cestrum parqui) which has black fruit.
  • Orange cestrum (Cestrum aurantiacum) which has orange flowers.

Where is it found?

Lady-of-the-night grows along the coast of NSW from the Queensland border to the South East region.

It is native to Central America.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Lady-of-the-night grows best in warm moist locations.  It can tolerate dense shade and sunny sites. It is not tolerant of waterlogging or saline soils. It grows: 

  • along waterways
  • in bushland including under rainforest canopies
  • under fence lines
  • urban areas including gardens and parks.

How does it spread?

By seed

Plants can produce thousands of seeds each year. Seeds are more viable after passing the gut of an animal [BV1] and seedlings are often found under trees where birds have perched. [WG2] Seeds may also spread via contaminated soil, in floodwaters and by people dumping garden waste.

By plant parts

Lady-of-the-night can regrow from stems or root fragments.

References

CABI (2020). Cestrum nocturnum (night jessamine) In: Invasive Species Compendium. Wallingford, UK: CAB International. Retreived 8 May 2020 from: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/12031 

Chimera, C. G., & Drake, D. R. (2010). Effects of pulp removal on seed germination of five invasive plants in Hawaii. Plant Protection Quarterly, 25(3), 137-140.

McKenzie, R. (2012). Australia's poisonous plants, fungi and cyanobacteria: a guide to species of medical and veterinary importance. CSIRO.

PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Retrieved 14 April 2021 fromhttps://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Cestrum~nocturnum

Queensland Government (2016). Weeds of Australia, Biosecurity Queensland edition Fact sheet: Cestrum nocturnum L. Retrieved 14 April 2021 from: https://www.weedbusters.org.nz/what-are-weeds/weed-list/queen-of-the-night/ 

Queensland Government, Childrens’ Health (2021). Night blooming jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum). Retrieved 14 April 2021 from:  https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/poisonous-plant-night-blooming-jessamine-cestrum-nocturnum/

Weedbusters New Zealand (2017). Weed Information Sheet: Queen of the night. Retrieved 14 April 2021 from: https://www.weedbusters.org.nz/what-are-weeds/weed-list/queen-of-the-night/

More information

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Control

Successful weed control relies on follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new seedlings. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful.

Wear personal protective equipment such as gloves to limit poisoning when working on this plant. If you touch the plants with bare hands, wash them before eating any food.

To manage lady-of-the-night:

  • treat plants before they fruit
  • control regrowth from treated plants
  • keep checking for new seedlings for many years because seeds can lie dormant.

Physical removal

By hand

Dig out small plants. Do not leave stems in contact with the soil because they may sprout. 

Chemical control

Herbicides can be applied all year round.

Spot spraying

Spray plants to thoroughly cover all of the foliage. Spraying will not kill the fruit. If possible collect the fruit and dispose of it. Contact your local council for disposal methods.

Basal barking

Apply herbicide mixed with diesel to cover the lower stem, all the way around.  

Splatter gun

Splatter guns can be used for dense infestations of weeds that are difficult to reach. The specialised nozzle produces large droplets that allow plants up to 10 m away to be sprayed with limited chance of spray drift.  Spray small amounts of concentrated herbicide on the weeds. It is not necessary to cover all of the foliage.  

Cut stump method

Cut the main stem and apply herbicide to the stump within 15 seconds of cutting.  

Weed wipers

Use wipers or wands to apply herbicide directly onto leaves. This can be used for small infestations and will minimise damage to other species.

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
Fluroxypyr 200 g/L (Comet® 200 herbicide)
Rate: 500 mL to 1 L per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: Do not graze failed crops and treated pastures or cut for stock feed for 7 days after application. See label for further information.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 200 g/L (Comet® 200 herbicide)
Rate: 35 mL per L diesel/kerosene
Comments: Basal bark
Withholding period: Do not graze failed crops and treated pastures or cut for stock feed for 7 days after application. See label for further information.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Staraneā„¢ Advanced)
Rate: 300 to 600 mL per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: Do not graze failed crops and treated pastures or cut for stock food for 7 days after application. See label for more information.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Staraneā„¢ Advanced)
Rate: 21 mL per L diesel/kerosene
Comments: Basal bark
Withholding period: Do not graze failed crops and treated pastures or cut for stock food for 7 days after application. See label for more information.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: One part product to 50 parts water
Comments: Spot spray
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: One part product to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut scrape and paint
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: One part product to 9 parts water
Comments: Splatter gun
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: One part product to 20 parts water
Comments: Wipe onto leaves
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 10 - 20g per 100 L water plus surfactant
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: B, Inhibitors of acetolactate synthase (ALS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 10 g per 1 L of water plus surfactant
Comments: Wipe onto leaves
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: B, Inhibitors of acetolactate synthase (ALS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


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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