Yellow burrhead (Limnocharis flava)

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

Yellow burrhead is a perennial aquatic plant that has the potential to become a major weed of freshwater systems in tropical and subtropical Australia.


How does this weed affect you?

Yellow burrhead is a perennial aquatic plant that has the potential to become a major weed of freshwater systems in tropical and subtropical Australia.

It can alter the natural flow of water in channels and drains, causing silt to build up and eventually block water flow.

Unusual foliage and attractive yellow flowers make yellow burrhead an appealing pond plant, and it may have entered the country as a garden ornamental.

Yellow burrhead has the potential to invade and establish in lakes, rivers, dams and wetlands across northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory, coastal Queensland and northern New South Wales (NSW).

Where is it found?

Yellow burrhead is native to Central America, from Mexico through to Paraguay, northern Argentina and the Caribbean.

It has naturalised in the USA, South America, India and south-east Asia. It is a major weed in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia where it threatens wetlands and has become problematic in rice fields and irrigation channels. Severe infestations have forced farmers to abandon rice paddies.

In 2001 several small populations were discovered in garden ponds in northern Queensland. All known infestations of yellow burrhead are currently under eradication programs, with infestations still occurring in the Queensland districts of Cairns and Townsville.

There are currently no known infestations of yellow burrhead in NSW and it is banned from entry into Australia.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Yellow burrhead 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.

How does it spread?

Yellow burrhead reproduces vegetatively and by seed. Large numbers of small seeds are produced every year. Mature fruit can be produced in as little as 42 days, and then released onto the water surface. The buoyant seeds are released from the fruit and can float to new locations in moving water. Seeds may also be spread by contaminated mud attached to vehicles, footwear, animals and water birds.

New plantlets also develop after a flowering stem loses all its flowers and bends over into the mud. The end of the stem takes root in the mud and develops a new plant or can break off and float away to form a new infestation.

What does it look like?

Yellow burrhead is an erect, anchored, perennial plant. It prefers fertile, shallow, still water and can grow up to 1 m above the water surface. In year-round wet conditions it behaves as a perennial and as an annual in areas that are seasonally dry.

Key identification features

  • Leaf stems grow in clumps from seed or daughter plants. They are green, triangular and fleshy, and grow to 75 cm in height.
  • Leaves are green, with 11–15 parallel veins. Leaf shape varies with age. Leaves are 5–30 cm long and 4–25 cm wide. Young leaves are narrow, broadening and becoming more oval-shaped with age.
  • Flowers are three-petalled, small, pale yellow and cup-shaped, growing in clusters of 5–15. Plants flower year-round.
  • Fruit is round, up to 2 cm wide and made up of 12–18 crescent-shaped segments. Each fruit can produce around 1000 seeds.
  • Seeds are about 1.5 mm long, dark brown and horseshoe-shaped, with obvious ridges.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Yellow burrhead thrives in nutrient-enriched water and can quickly colonise shallow wetlands and the edges of deeper waterways, where it can outcompete and dominate other aquatic plants.


2006 edition prepared by Annie Johnson and Rachele Osmond; 2013 edition reviewed by Rod Ensbey; edited by Elissa van Oosterhout.


Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow LL (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK

Limnocharis (Limnocharis flava) Fact sheet (2011) Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.

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.

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

See Using herbicides for more information.

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Only products registered for aquatic use)
Rate: Up to 200 mL in 10 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
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

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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

Reviewed 2018