Carpobrotus sp. (Aizoaceae) are commonly called pigface in Australia, and it’s a complex genus that consists of several species, that most people think all are native. Carpobrotus edulis, commonly called Hottentot fig or Cape fig, is a widespread perennial succulent that originates in South Africa and has naturalised in most Mediterranean countries in the world. Its particularly weedy on sandy soils in coastal areas, and can form monocultures in winter-wet depressions and sandy paddocks. Its spread in Western Australia has been assisted by widespread amenity plantings facilitated by several local government areas and contractors. Carpobrotus aequilaterus commonly called Chilean pigface is less common, but not less aggressive as an invader. Also widespread throughout Mediterranean, but its origin is less clear. Most likely to be from South Africa, but it’s seen as a species unique to California and has been present there the 1600s (Vila et al 1998).
The native Carpobrotus species in Western Australia are:
Carpobrotus modestus. Inland pigface see https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/2796
Carpobrotus rossii, Krakalla,found near Shark bay see https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/2798
Carpobrtus virescens, found in southern coastal dunes from Shark Bay to Esperance see https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/2798
All three species will hybridise with the exotic Carpobrotus, and there is concern amongst botanists that it will eventually be impossible to discern native species form hybrids.
Ecology, biology and phenology
When not in flower, C. edulis is a low growing succulent with deep green leaves that resemble fingers. Usually triangular in section, leaves are variable in length from 1-15cm. Flowers are large, 5-6cm wide, yellow and present from September – January. Individual flowers persist for about a week, and then petals wither and the fruit can persist for several months where its either eaten by wildlife or falls below the plant. Carpobrotus fruits are edible and can sometimes be found pickled at specialist gourmet food stores and recipes online.
C. edulis readily hybridises with native species, and back again and therefore much of the Carporbrotus seen in gardens are a hybrid of unknown ancestry. Due to challenges in taxonomy, its only in recent years that revegetation programs have ensured Carpobrotus used in coastal revegetation are sourced from stock propagated from the native C. virescens and not C. edulis or hybrids.
Hybrid Carpobrotus flowers are variable in colour, from apricot to deep purple. C. edulis in its pure form is always yellow.
Unfortunately, it’s not a reportable plant, but its still sold in mainstream nurseries.
C. edulis is shallow rooted, so can be easily hand pulled in small areas but will regrow from any fragments. Herbicide may be required for larger areas. The seed is short-lived but may persist for 2-3 years. Succulent species aren’t often successfully managed with control burns.
Found Carpobrotus edulis?
If you find Carpobrotus edulis, report it to DPIRD by MyPestGuide Reporter or iNaturalist. Reporting contributes to knowledge of the species range.
Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Dodd, J., Lloyd, S.G. & Cousens, R.D. (2007) Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. 2nd Edition. The Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Victoria Park.
Vila, M., Weber, E., & D’Antonio, C.,M. (1998). Flowering and mating system in hybridizing Carpobrotus (aizoaceae) in coastal california. Canadian Journal of Botany, 76(7), 1165-1169.
Mexican poppy in Western Australia is the common name for two species of invasive poppy from the Papaveraceae family: Argemone mexicana and Argemone ochroleuca subsp ochreleuca. Both species originate in Mexico and the range extends to central America and into southern Texas. Both species have similar in appearance but A. mexicana petals are orange in colour while A. ochroleuca is pale yellow to white. First recorded in Australia herbaria in 1882 around Moree and Gunnadah, it has thought to have arrived as a contaminant in imported wheat (Parsons & Cuthbertson, 2001). First recorded in Western Australia in 1921 at Beverley in the Avon Valley catchment in southern Western Australia, but its highly invasive range is Pilbara region, particularly along water courses. Occasional plants are found in southern WA but populations rarely persist.
Argemone ochroleuca Sweet subsp. ochroleuca, Argemone Mexicana L.
The most prevalent species in Western Australia is A. ochroleuca subsp. ochroleuca. From Florabase:
Annual, herb, 0.3-1 m high, spiny, with yellow latex. Fl. white-cream-yellow, Feb to Mar or Jul to Nov. Red/white/grey sand, red-brown clay loam. Creek edges, riverbanks, roadsides.
Ecology, biology and phenology
Mexican poppy has naturalised throughout Australia and in southern Africa. Its commonly a weed of highly disturbed areas such as roadsides and mining areas, but large infestations are found along seasonal sandy river beds and poorly managed pastures. The sap is toxic, but it’s not usually grazed by livestock due to the numerous spines on all plant tissues and the bitter sap, but the seeds could result in animal poisoning if introduced in ground feed. Primary concern for agriculture is the contamination of cereal crops, and in southern India and southern Africa and there have been several cases of human poisoning and death following ingestion of wheat flours made with high levels of mexican poppy seed. It is also associated with epidemic dropsy, a lymphatic condition resulting in fluid retention in the legs and feet (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemic_dropsy).
Mexican poppy is an annual species, germinating in late Autumn and producing flowers between November and December. The species is self-fertile and after flowering, an ovoid seed pod forms containing up to 400 seeds that can persist for several years. In northern Australia, germination could be variable depending on rainfall and it’s not uncommon to have huge flushes of germination following cyclonic events.
Argemone mexicana is a declared pest in the state, prohibited entry although it has been recorded from several locations. Argemone ochroleuca is a permitted species, and although its highly undesirable weed there is not control category assigned.
Several control options are listed on the DPIRD website https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/herbicides/mexican-poppy-control
Found Mexican poppy? Report it…
Ecology, biology and phenology
Found St Johns Wort?
If you find boneseed, report it to DPIRD by MyPestGuide Reporter.