Araujia sericifera syn. A. hortorum

Moth plant

Family: Asclepiadaceae

Origin: South America

Hand holding moth plant leaves and flowers on a vine.
A vigorous growing vine that produces a proliferation of flowers multiple times a year. Flowers are a favourite of bees and monarch butterflies.

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • Hauraki Gulf Controlled Area pest — Site-led
  • Aotea — Eradication
  • Parkland with Significant Ecological Areas — Site-led
  • Whole region — Sustained control
  • Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area priority status
  • National Pest Plant Accord Species

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Perennial climbing vine with milky sap/latex. Stems are twining, scrambling and woody. Leaves are entire, < 10 cm long and opposite, with dull green tops and grey undersides. Flowers are white/pale pink and borne singly or in clusters. Fruit is fleshy, leathery and pear-shaped.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell moth plant. As moth plant is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.
  • You must not plant moth plant within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property.
  • You must destroy any moth plant on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.
  • You must destroy all moth plant on the land you are occupying if it is on Waiheke or Rākino Island.
  • If you occupy land within the buffer area of a park where moth plant is being managed, you must destroy all moth plant on that land. View a map of park buffers where this applies. To find out more about how we’re protecting Auckland’s parkland from pest plants, visit our pest plant buffer pages.

Auckland Council will manage moth plant at all sites within the Aotea/Great Barrier Island group where it is known to occur.

If you see moth plant anywhere on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group, please report it to Auckland Council at pestfree@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz.

Habitats

Forest, forest margins, tracks, coastline, cliffs, shrublands, mangroves, wasteland, orchards, urban areas.

Dispersal

Seeds dispersed by wind and water.

Impact on environment

Smothers native vegetation and prevents recruitment. Potential to catastrophically impact forest structure. Poisonous milky latex in stems, leaves and roots can cause dermatitis.

Control

Site Management

Cut and pull vines away from desirable trees and native plants before foliar spraying. Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Do not attempt to undertake control of this species on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group. Please report to Auckland Council if seen on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group.

Physical control

Method: Dig or pull out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: Seed pods.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill.

Biocontrol

Moth plant beetle (Colaspis argentinensis).

For more information about how biocontrol works, see What is biocontrol?

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications: Cut stump and paste freshly cut base of stems with metsulfuron gel.

Basic Growsafe certified: Cut stump and spray freshly cut base of stems with 1g metsulfuron-methyl per 1 L of water.

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Foliar spray with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant.

Safety notes

Sap is an irritant.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Looking up into Moth Plant vine in flower.
Control requires tracing back all stems to the base stem, cutting it off and applying chemical to the base. All pods should be collected and destroyed safely prior to seeds being released.
Moth Plant pod with leaves and flowers.
Large green fleshy pods are produced that contain thousands of small black seeds on white fluff. As the pods open all the seeds are released to drift on the wind.
Close up of Moth Plant flowers and buds.
Vines grow through native vegetation and often can't be seen until flowering. Base of stems becomes woody and deep roots make the vine hard to dig out.
Moth Plant flowers, stems and leaves.
Adapted to survive in many conditions, the seeds can germinate almost anywhere. Milky white sap is produced within the stems and pods that is poisonous to animals and can sting skin and eyes.
Close up of Moth Plant pod.
The fast growing vine can collapse the canopy of the trees that it grows in. Seeds are viable for many years after they have been released but seedlings are easy to hand pull.
Photo credit: Phil Bendle