Miconia (Miconia species)

PROHIBITED MATTER: If you see this plant report it. Call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline 1800 680 244
Also known as: velvet tree

Miconia is an unusually aggressive invader of moist habitats, and a potentially devastating weed of Australian rainforests.


How does this weed affect you?

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.

Where is it found?

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.

It was first found on the far north coast of NSW in 2003, and in 2013 sixteen miconia plants were seized from a nursery. Since 2010 thirty-five mature 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.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Miconia 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.

  • Estimated distribution of Miconia in NSW (Map: NSW Noxious Weed Local Control Authorities, 2010)
    Map shows weed distribution and density estimated by local council weeds officers in 2010.

How does it 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.

What does it look like?

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.

What type of environment does it grow in?

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


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


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

More information

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Please do not attempt to treat or dispose of this weed yourself. Report this plant if you see it anywhere in NSW by calling the helpline listed at the top of this page immediately.

NSW DPI will lead an initial response for the treatment and disposal of the plant to stop it from spreading

Control needs to be carried out carefully to prevent the re-establishment of massive numbers of seedlings from the soil seedbank.

Herbicide options

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 (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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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.
All of NSW Prohibited Matter
A person who deals with prohibited matter or a carrier of prohibited matter is guilty of an offence. A person who becomes aware of or suspects the presence of prohibited matter must immediately notify the Department of Primary Industries
All species of Miconia are Prohibited Matter in NSW

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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 2017