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Miconia leaf with the
distinctive purple underside
and three veins.
Underside of Miconia
discovered at Bilambil.
Miconia (Miconia calvescens), also known as Velvet tree, is a potentially devastating weed of Australian rainforests. All Miconia species are declared noxious throughout NSW as a class 1 weed and must be eradicated from the land and the land must be kept free of the plant.
As a notifiable weed, all outbreaks must be reported to Rous County Council.
If you find this weed in your area or see something that may be Miconia, contact Rous County Council or Industry & Investment NSW immediately.
Miconia is a rainforest tree native to South America and can be found from Mexico to Brazil. It is an attractive plant and a botanical curiosity. It has been cultivated in glasshouses in Europe since the 1850s. It is recorded as a serious weed in Hawaii and French Polynesia, including Tahiti, where it has devastated the native flora and fauna. It is naturalised to a lesser extent in Sri Lanka and Jamaica. This weed ultimately poses a threat to all tropical and subtropical rainforests.
Miconia was introduced to a botanical garden in Tahiti in 1937. It is now common in over 70% of the island and is described as the ‘green cancer’ of Tahiti. The plant has a similar history in Hawaii and is locally described as the ‘purple plague’. The introduction of Miconia into Australia as a garden ornamental was first recorded in Townsville in 1963. During the 1970s and 1980s it became a popular ornamental foliage plant and was sold by several nurseries in Queensland and NSW. Naturalised populations are known to occur in Far North Queensland, and small infestations or backyard plants have been found at Tully, Innisvale and the Cairns region. In Queensland and Tasmania, plants must be destroyed.
The climate throughout much of northern and eastern Australia is ideal for the plant, and in April 2003 sixteen Miconia plants were seized from a nursery on the Far North Coast of NSW.
In 2008 FNCW (now Rous County Council) staff, with assistance from the public, discovered a single Miconia plant growing in scrub at Tomewin. Further inspection found two seedlings, and a short distance away the parent plant was found near a house in a garden. As a result of these finds, in 2010 an intensive investigation of the area was undertaken, locating two more sites, one at Burringbar and another at North Tumbulgum. Further assistance from the public was instrumental in locating these new sites. All plants have been eradicated, but Council is alert to the possibility that they were not the only ones.
The importation of all Miconia species into Australia is prohibited under Australian quarantine regulations.
Flowering and fruiting begin after four to five years, and can re-occur several times a year. Germination requirements are varied. Most seed remains dormant until stimulated by an opening in the canopy, however seed will also germinate under heavy shade. Seeds remain viable in the soil for five years or more. Miconia is also known to spread vegetatively through layering and re-sprouting.
There are no herbicides currently registered in NSW for the control of Miconia. On larger trees, cut stump and frilling methods have been used successfully. In large infestations, removal of adult trees results in a massive germination from the soil seedbank. Uprooting is effective on plants less than about three metres tall.
Distribution map as at October 2016
Predictive mapping supplied by Queensland Biosecurity