Moth plant vine, the an­ti­so­cial climber

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - WAIKATO WEEDWATCH

Moth plant is a real an­ti­so­cial climber.

Hail­ing from South Amer­ica, moth plant is a ram­pant ev­er­green vine ca­pa­ble of climb­ing high into the canopy of tall trees.

Once there, it forms huge, heavy, long-lived masses. Moth plant seeds are spread by wind and can travel long dis­tances.

Be­sides be­ing very in­va­sive, this plant has stems which ex­ude a smelly and sticky white sap which can se­verely ir­ri­tate peo­ple’s skin and eyes.

Also known as kapok vine, moth­vine, milkvine, milk weed,

‘‘Moth plant has large, green, pear­shaped pods con­tain­ing white fluffy seeds but, in De­cem­ber, the vines are a mass of waxy white flow­ers.’’

wild choko vine, and cruel plant, moth plant has grown through­out the Waikato and is most com­monly found in ur­ban ar­eas with scat­tered in­fes­ta­tion across the re­gion.

The ‘‘cruel plant’’ name used by some is prob­a­bly be­cause its flow­ers can trap and kill in­sects like moths, but­ter­flies and bees.

Moth plant has large, green, pear-shaped pods con­tain­ing white fluffy seeds but, in De­cem­ber, the vines are a mass of waxy white flow­ers, sometimes tinged with pink.

It is of­fi­cially des­ig­nated an un­wanted or­gan­ism banned from sale, distri­bu­tion and prop­a­ga­tion in New Zealand and, in the Waikato, landown­ers are re­quired to de­stroy it where they find it on their prop­er­ties.

When get­ting rid of it, peo­ple should wear gloves given how the sap can ir­ri­tate bare skin. It’s best to at­tack plants be­fore seed pods form by ei­ther pulling the vines out by the roots or treat­ing the stems with a suit­able her­bi­cide to kill the vines – visit Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil’s web­site for more in­for­ma­tion meth­ods.

Any pods that do form need to be dis­posed of at a land­fill for deep burial. Re­visit con­trolled sites reg­u­larly to check for any new seedlings or vine re­growth.

Re­plant­ing sites with more de­sirable species is a good idea. Some nice na­tive climbers that can be used for this are puawananga and star jas­mine. on con­trol

Moth plant pods are easy to spot.

Moth plants fea­ture bell-shaped flow­ers.

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