Moth vine (Araujia sericifera)

Also known as: moth plant

Moth vine is a fast growing climbing plant with hairy twining stems and large green fruit. It is poisonous to people and animals and smothers native vegetation.

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How does this weed affect you?

Moth vine grows quickly and smothers other plants.  It invades natural areas, parks and gardens. Moth vine is poisonous to people and animals.

Human poisoning

The leaves and seeds are poisonous. The latex sap can cause skin and eye irritation and in some cases it can cause breathing difficulties. 

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

Poisoning is not common but there are records of poultry, cattle and horses being poisoned. Symptoms include: poor balance, staggering, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Animals can recover but moth vine can also result in death.

What does it look like?

Moth vine is a long-lived vine with twining stems that can climb 6-10 m on plants and other structures. Small pale flowers grow in clusters from summer to autumn (mostly in summer). It has a dense cover of thick, arrow-shaped leaves. 

Leaves are:

  • dull, dark green or grey-grey on top, whitish-green below
  • triangular or arrow-shaped
  • 3-11 cm long and 1-6 cm wide
  • thick and leathery
  • slightly hairy on top and sparsly hairy underneath
  • in opposite pairs along stems.

Flowers are:

  • tube-shaped spreading to 5 petals
  • creamy-white or pink, sometimes with darker pink streaks inside
  • 8-20 mm long and 20-25 mm wide
  • in clusters of 2-5 flowers in the leaf forks
  • present from November till March.

Fruit are:

  • egg or pear-shaped, looks like choko (Sechium edule) fruit
  • 6-10 cm long, 3-7 cm wide
  • pale greyish-green when young turn brown and woody when old
  • skin thick and ribbed.

Seeds:

  • are blackish 5 - 8 mm long
  • have a tuft of long, silky white hairs 20-30 mm long.

Stems are:

  • grey-ish green
  • hairy
  • twinning and scrambling 
  • woody at the base
  • release a milky sap when cut.

Roots:

Roots are shallow and woody.

Similar looking plants

Moth vine looks similar to several native vines:

  • Milk vines (Marsdenia rostrata and M. flavescens) which have smaller, creamy flowers; long, narrow seed pods; and leaves that are shiny on top.  The undersides of the leaves are pale green for M. rostrata and yellowish for M. flavescens.
  • Silkpods (Parsonia spp.), which have smaller, yellow flowers and cigar-shaped pods.

Where is it found?

Moth vine grows in eastern New South Wales and sometimes inland areas. It grows in sub-tropical coastal floodplain forests in the north coast region and the Illawarra sub-tropical rainforests in the Sydney region.

It is also a weed in New Zealand, Africa, Europe and North America. It is native to South America.  

What type of environment does it grow in?

Moth vine grows best in warm temperate and sub-tropical climates with moist soil. It can grow in full sun or semi-shade and doesn’t tolerate frost. Historically planted as a garden ornamental it grows in:

  • coastal areas
  • waterways 
  • bushland
  • roadsides and fence lines
  • disturbed areas and wastelands
  • urban parks and gardens.

How does it spread?

By seeds

Each fruit can contain up to 400 seeds and the seeds can remain viable for up to 5 years. The fruit split open while still attached to the vine and release the light seeds with silky tufts of hairs. The seed is spread by wind, water and can attach to clothing or animal fur.

References

Harden, G. J., McDonald, W. J. F., & Williams, J. B. (2007). Rainforest climbing plants. Gwen Harden Publishing.

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

Muyt, A. (2001). Bush invaders of South-East Australia: a guide to the identification and control of environmental weeds found in South-East Australia. RG and FJ Richardson.

PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Retrieved 16 August 2018 from: https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Araujia~sericifera

Winks, C. J., Fowler, S. V., Council, A. R., & Council, N. R. (2000). Prospects for biological control of moth plant, Araujia sericifera (Asclepiadaceae). Landcare Research Contract Report LC9900/100 (unpubl.).

More information

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Control

Take care to avoid contact with the milky sap that is released when the plant is damaged. Wear gloves and other personal protective equipment. 

Plants produce hundreds of seeds which can live for up to 5 years so follow up work will be needed. Return to control areas regularly to check for any regrowth and re-treat when needed.

Prevention

Don’t plant moth vine in your garden. Dispose of the fruit appropriately. 

Disposal

Contact your local council for advice on how to dispose of moth vine fruit. 

Physical removal

Seedlings and small plants can be hand pulled or dug out. This is easiest when the soil is damp and loose. If possible remove roots from at least 10 cm below ground to avoid regrowth of the plant. 

Larger vines can be cut and the left to wither and die on the plants that they are growing on. The roots will need to be dug out to prevent regrowth. 

Remove and dispose of the fruit.

Chemical control

Large plants or infestations can be controlled with herbicides. 

Spot spraying

For seedlings or low growing vines, spray to thoroughly cover all of the foliage. If vines are growing over native plants spot spraying will not be appropriate and other options should be used. Spraying will not kill the fruit. Collect the fruit and dispose of it appropriately. 

Stem scraping

Gently scrape a thin layer of bark off along the stem. Apply herbicide within 15 seconds. Do not scrape all the way around the stem as this will ringbark the vine and prevent the herbicide from moving though the plant effectively. This method is suitable in sensitive environments. 

Cut stump

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

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: 200 mL per 10 L of water
Comments: Treat seedling plants.
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 per 1.5 parts of water
Comments: Stem cut, scrape and paint application
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L with Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 2 L glyphosate plus 15g metsulfuron-methyl in 100L water
Comments: Spot spray
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 100L of water
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


Picloram 44.7 g/L + 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 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.

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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