Tobacco weed (Elephantopus mollis)

Tobacco weed is a fast-growing herb up to 1.5 m, with rough hairy leaves and small white flowers.

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How does this weed affect you?

Tobacco weed is a fast-growing plant that:

  • outcompetes pastures, reducing productivity especially for the beef and diary industries.
  • outcompetes native plants
  • has hairs on the leaves and stems that cause skin irritation.

What does it look like?

Tobacco weed is a perennial herb up to 1.5 m tall. It starts out as a rosette of leaves on the ground. 

Leaves are:

  • in a rosette and alternate along the stems
  • up to 30 cm long and 10 cm wide in the rosette
  • shorter along the stems
  • oblong or oval-shaped.
  • rough to touch on top
  • sticky and hairy underneath
  • toothed along the edges
  • attached to the stem by a winged stalk that runs along the stem.

Flowerheads are:

  • white or pinkish-purple
  • tubular with up to 5 lobes each up to 6 mm long
  • up to 2 cm wide
  • in clusters at the end of stems
  • sometimes present all year, but usually in May.

Seeds:

  • brown to greyish black
  • ribbed and hairy
  • about 3 mm long with 5 white bristles up to 4.5 mm long.

Stems are:

  • upright
  • sparsely branched on the top half
  • woody at the base
  • covered with fine white hairs. 

Roots:

  • are fibrous extending from the crown (no tap root).

Where is it found?

In NSW, tobacco weed has been found in the Tweed Shire in the North Coast Region.

It is native to Central and South America.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Tobacco weed grows in tropical and subtropical regions usually with more than 1400 mm rain per year. Plants grow best in full sun and fertile soils. They have been found:

  • in pastures including both degraded and dense healthy pastures
  • forest edges
  • disturbed areas such as roadsides.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Tobacco weed during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2024)
    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?

Tobacco weed spread via seed. Most seeds sprout in the first year and none remain viable for more than two years. Seed is moved short distances by the wind. Most long distance spread is by:

  • water
  • the seeds attaching to clothing footwear, animal fur or feathers
  • seeds in mud stuck to vehicles or agricultural machinery

It could also be spread as a contaminant in pasture seed.

References

Nunes, A. L., Cazaroto, B., Rizzardi, M. A., Bianchi, M. A., Costa, L. O. D., & Merotto Junior, A. (2021). Importance of sequential herbicide application in the control of Elephantopus mollis. Ciência Rural51, e20200420.

Parker, C. (2013). CABI Datasheet Elephantopus mollis (elephant's foot). Retrieved 19 April 2024 from: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/114063

PIER Pacific Island Ecosystems at risk (2010). Elephantopus mollis Kunth, Asteraceae). Retrieved 19 April 2024 from: http://www.hear.org/pier/species/elephantopus_mollis.htm

PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Retrieved 19 April 2024 from: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Elephantopus~mollis

Queensland Government. (2020). Restrictive invasive plant fact sheet: Tobacco weed Elephantopus mollis. Retrieved 19 April 2024 from: https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/68451/tobacco-weed.pdf

More information

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Control

Prevention

Clean vehicles and agricultural machinery that have been in an infested area before moving to a site without Tobacco weed.

If you walk through an area with tobacco weed, brush down footwear and clothing to remove the bristled seeds.

Slashing and mulching

Slashing can prevent plants from producing seeds but will not kill plants. Slashing followed by herbicide application can work well in some areas.

Physical removal

Dig out scattered plants for small infestation. Very small plants can be hand pulled if the soil is soft.

Cultivation

Cultivation is an effective control method for tobacco weed. This is best done before plants set seed. If the plants have seeded check the site for two years and control new growth. Clean cultivation equipment after working in infested areas.

Fire

The plans do not have any root parts that can regrow therefore fire may be used to kill plants in dry seasons.

Chemical control

Treating plants before they produce stems is the most effective time to use herbicides. Tobacco weed can regrow after it has been treated so return to control areas regularly to check progress and re-treat when needed.

Spot spray

Spray actively growing plants. Evenly cover all the foliage.

Wipe

Wipe the herbicide mix onto the foliage of actively growing plants.

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 (Various products)
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: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
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: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 200 mL per 10 L of water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
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: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
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 non-ionic surfactant at a rate of 100 mL per 100 L.
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: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS 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 plus non-ionic surfactant at a rate of 100 mL per 100 L.
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: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


Picloram 100 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Aminopyralid 8 g/L (Grazon® Extra)
Rate: 300 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: Spray actively growing plants. Cover all of the foliage to the point of run off. Add a spray oil for best results.
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: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
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 pest 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* (for Regional Priority - Eradication)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. 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.

Reviewed 2024