Good Time to get rid of Moth Plant

Moth plant is forming its distinctive pods right now, making it a good time for people to check their backyards for this hazardous plant.

Moth plant or Kapok vine (Araujia sericefera) is on the National Pest Plant Accord, which means it is banned from being sold, propagated or distributed.

The plant is hazardous to human health and is extremely invasive.

“It’s particularly bad in Napier South, Maraenui and Hastings but moth plant can be found anywhere in urban areas so we want people to know of the health risks and stop it from spreading further,” says Darin Underhill, Biosecurity Team Leader – Plant Pests at Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

The evergreen climbing vine can grow up to 10 metres high, and is fast growing and can smother more desirable plants. It has clusters of white flowers which form large green pods.

The distinctive pods contain hundreds of black thistle-down like, poisonous seeds. When the pods dry out, they split open and release large numbers of seeds attached to silky threads. These seeds will germinate anywhere, including small cracks in the ground.

“The plant pods are forming now which makes it easy to recognise if you have the plant,” says Darin.

The health concern comes from the woody stems which contain a pungent, milky sap that can cause skin irritation and ill health. Care needs to be taken when cutting this plant out.

“Moth plant can be removed by pulling or digging out the roots, or treating it with an approved herbicide,” says Darin.

“It’s a plant you don’t want in your garden. To replace it, talk to your local plant nursery about other attractive climbers which will be less of a problem.”

For more detailed information on how to control or identify this plant, please contact a Biosecurity Plant Pest Officer on 0800 108838.

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