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Detailed information sheet

Click on the photos for a larger image.

Botanical name :
Araujia sericifera
Family :
Asclepiadaceae (asclepia) family 
Common name :
Also known as :
kapok vine, mothvine, cruel plant, milkvine, milk weed, wild choko vine, Araujia hortorum, Physianthus albens. 
Where is it originally
from? :
Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uraguay
What does it look like? :
Rampant, evergreen vine to 10 m tall with smelly, milky sap and twining flexible stems that are covered in down and woody near the base. Dark green leaves (3-12 x 2-6 cm) are hairless and dull on the top, greyish-downy underneath, and alternate on the stems. Clusters of 2-4 bell-shaped white flowers (20-25 mm diameter), occasionally with pink streaks, appear from December to May, followed by distinctive thick, leathery, pear-shaped choko-like pods (10 x 7 cm) containing kapok-like pulp, which splits open to disperse many black, thistledown-like seeds. 
Are there any similar
species? :
Choko fruit is similar but leaves are more grape-like. 
Why is it weedy? :
Rapid growth to canopy, forming large, heavy, long-lived masses. Produces masses of viable seeds that can drift long distances on air currents. Tolerant of shade, very tolerant of drought or damp, wind, salt, many soil types, and damage, but is frost tender. Poisonous and irritant-inducing (not grazed).
How does it spread? :
Wind spreads seed from gardens, roadsides, orchards, hedges, plantations, vacant and industrial land. Caterpillars of monarch butterflies can be maintained on moth plant when their usual food source (swan plant) is not available, but the feeding parts of butterflies drinking from the flowers become gummed up, leading to eventual starvation and death.
What damage does it do? :
Germinates in light wells or semi-shade inside established forest, often long distance from seed source, and smothers and kills plants up into the canopy, preventing the establishment of native plant species.
Which habitats is
it likely to invade? :
Intact and disturbed forest and margins, tracks, coastline, cliffs, shrublands, mangroves, inshore and offshore islands, almost any frost-free habitat. 
What can I do to get
rid of it? :
Poisonous, causes dermatitis, protect skin against contact with sap. Destroy ripe pods first to minimise seeding.
1. Pull up seedlings (all year round). 
2. Stump swab (best in summer- autumn): Tordon Brushkiller (100ml/L) or Banvine (200ml/L) or Yates Woody Weedkiller (400ml/L). Remove all pods and dispose of at refuse transfer station, burn or bury deeply. Leave remaining cut material on site to rot down.
3. Spray (summer-autumn): Tordon Brushkiller (30ml/10L) or Banvine (12ml/L) or Yates Woody Weedkiller (24ml/L). 
What can I do to
stop it coming back? :
Stumps resprout. Bared areas reseed profusely.  Follow up 6 monthly, replant bare spots.

Description:Moth plant flowers showing pink tinge.Photo:C.Lewis

Description:Moth plant pods.Photo:C.Lewis

Description:Moth plant in flower.Photo:C.Lewis

Description:Moth plant pods showing seeds.Photo:by Auckland Regional Council

Description:Moth plant seedlings, Hamilton.Photo:by Carolyn Lewis


For more detailed botanical descriptions of weed species, check out the Plant Conservation Network's website at http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/exotic_plant_life_and_weeds/index.asp

Click here for Herbicides and Trade names

*The chemical control methods in this manual were devised by Department of Conservation staff for Department of Conservation operations and should not be used as a substitute for the pesticide manufacturer's label instructions. The Department of Conservation takes no responsibility for any liability or damage to any person, property or thing which may occur as a result of the use of any pesticide in accordance with the chemical control methods contained on this website.


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