Monkey's comb (Pithecoctenium crucigerum)

Also known as: white trumpet vine

Monkey’s comb is a fast-growing woody vine with heart shaped leaves. It smothers and outcompetes other plants.

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How does this weed affect you?

Monkey’s comb is a climbing vine that forms dense infestations. It can:

  • smoother and kill other plants
  • grow into tree canopies limiting growth and weighing down branches
  • form very dense mats over the ground, outcompeting ground covers and seedlings
  • reduce food and shelter for native animals.

What does it look like?

Monkey’s comb is a fast-growing vine with climbing tendrils. In summer it produces cream and yellow flowers.

Leaves are:

  • arranged in opposite pairs along stem
  • made up of 2-3 leaflets, with the third leaflet often replaced by a coiled tendril.
  • leaflets are:
    • soft and bright green
    • oval to heart shaped
    • 2.5-8 cm long and 2-6 cm wide
    • on stalks 2-11 cm long.

 Flowers are:

  • white or creamy yellow outside and yellow inside
  • fleshy with velvety hairs
  • tube-shaped with 5 lobes notched at the top
  • bent over at the base
  • up to 5 cm long and 2 cm wide
  • usually in clusters of 2 to 10 flowers (occasionally up to 30 flowers).

Fruit have not yet been found in Australia, however they are:

  • a large, thick woody capsule
  • very prickly
  • 8-30 cm long and 3.5-8 cm wide
  • filled with seeds that have a transparent papery wing.

Stems:

  • Young stems have 6 sides and are hairy and ribbed.
  • Older stems are thick and woody and not ribbed.

Similar looking plants

When it’s not flowering monkey’s comb can look like:

  • Orange trumpet creeper (Pyrostegia venusta), which has orange flowers.
  • Argentine trumpet vine (Clytostoma callistegioides), which has pale lavender flowers.

Both these plants have narrower leaves than monkey’s comb.

Where is it found?

Monkey’s comb has been found growing on the North Coast in the Tweed and Byron Shires and in the Greater Sydney region.

It is native to Central and South America and the Caribbean.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Monkey’s comb grows in warm temperate, tropical and subtropical climates. Originally grown as a garden plant it is now also found:

  • in disturbed areas
  • along roadsides
  • along waterways
  • on forest edges.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Monkey's comb during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2021)
    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?

New plants can grow from stem fragments, which grow roots when they come into contact with soil. Plants can be spread by people dumping garden waste and in waterways during floods.

No fruit has been found on monkey’s comb in Australia.

References

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

Queensland Government (2016). Weeds of Australia, Biosecurity Queensland edition Fact sheet: Pithecoctenium crucigerum Opuntia aurantiaca Lindl. Retrieved 2018 from: https://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/data/media/Html/pithecoctenium_crucigerum.htm 

Technigro (2013). Weed Watch, Your alert to new and emerging threats: Monkey's comb Pithecoctenium crucigerum. Retrieved from: http://www.technigro.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/36-Monkeys-Comb.pdf

Taranaki Educational Resource, Research, Analysis and Information Network. Pithecoctenium crucigerum monkey's comb. Retrieved 2018 from: http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/weeds-by-scientific-names/pithecoctenium-crucigerum-monkey-s-comb.html

More information

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Control

Prevention

Do not plant monkey’s comb in your garden. Remove any plants and check for regrowth. Do not dump garden waste.

Physical removal

Small plants can be hand pulled or dug out. Take care not to leave stem fragments in contact with the soil as this could help spread the plant. Dispose of plant material appropriately. Contact your local council for advice on disposal.

Chemical control

Large plants or infestations can be controlled with herbicides. Spot spraying is useful for treating monkey’s comb that is covering the ground and not climbing over desirable plants.  Monkey’s comb covering desirable plants or growing high into the canopy can be treated using basal barking or cut, scrape and paint techniques.

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 (Starane™)
Rate: 500 mL to 1 L per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 200 g/L (Starane™)
Rate: 35 mL per L diesel/kerosene
Comments: Basal bark
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Starane™ Advanced)
Rate: 300 to 600 mL per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Starane™ Advanced)
Rate: 21 mL per L diesel/kerosene
Comments: Basal bark
Withholding period: 7 days.
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 - 20 g 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.
North Coast 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 2021