Moth Vine Margaret Donald/Flickr

Moth Vine

Did You Know?

  • Native to South America
  • Poisonous to livestock (cattle), domestic animals (poultry and dogs) and humans
  • Contact with its milky sap also causes skin and eye irritations and occasionally severe allergic reactions
FactBox Image

A significant environmental weed in NSW and Queensland, and a minor environmental weed in Victoria and South Australia.

Also called ‘Cruel Plant’ as it catches butterflies and moths.

Green climber vine with green triangular leaves. It can grow up to 5 m long/high with clusters of pink-white flowers. Large green ribbed fruit resemble turn brown before splitting to shed masses of white cotton-like seeds.


Green triangular to oval leaves 3 - 11 cm long and 1.5 - 6 cm wide with pointy ends and curling edges. Scattered hairs on upper surface with lower surface smooth with minimal fine hairs.


Bell-shaped tubular flowers have five sepals (8 - 13mm long) and five petals (18 - 20 mm long) that are fused at the base. The tips of the sepals (calyx lobes) and petals (corolla lobes) are usually curved outwards or backwards. Flowers may be white or pale pink and sometimes have darker pink streaks in their throat. Flowers are borne in 2 - 5 flowered clusters (cymes), 2 - 2.5 cm diameter.


The large fruit are egg-shaped or have a flattened base and resemble ‘chokos’, pale green colouring with thick ribbed walls; 6 - 10 cm long and 5 - 7 cm diameter. When mature, they become woody, turn brown in colour, and split lengthwise down one side to release hundreds of wind-borne seeds. These seeds (4 - 8 mm long) are blackish in colour and topped with a tuft of long white silky hairs 20 - 30 mm long.

Field Guide

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Species: WhatToObserve Image

What to Observe

  • First fully open single flower

  • Full flowering (record all days)

  • End of flowering (when 95% of the flowers have faded)

  • No flowering

  • Open seed pods (record all days)

  • Bird on eggs

  • Bird on nest

  • Bird feeding young

Climate Adaptations

Climate change is expected to worsen the impact of invasive species as ecosystems are more vulnerable to invasion when they are disturbed.

Species: WhenAndWhere Image

When and Where

When To Look

  • Flowering occurs from summer to autumn

Where To Look

  • All states except Northern Territory
  • Common around Victoria in inner Melbourne and Shepparton
  • Invades damp sclerophyll forest, coastal and riparian vegetation, gardens, waste places, plantations, orchards, forest margins, roadsides and rainforests
Species: WhatElse Image

What Else?

Similar Species

It is similar to other native milk vines (Marsdenia spp.) and silkpods (Parsonsia spp.), many of which all have milky sap and opposite leaves. However, these species usually have smaller yellowish flowers and their fruit are generally long and narrow in shape.

Can be confused with these species but distinguished by the following differences:

  • Weedy Tweedia (Oxypetalum caeruleum) has densely hairy young stems and leaves with hairy undersides. Its flowers are bright blue and moderately-sized (corolla tubes 4 - 5 mm long, corolla lobes 9 -12 mm long). The long fruit are relatively slender (8 - 11 cm long) and cigar-shaped.
  • Cultivated Wax Flower (Stephanotis floribunda) has hairless young stems and leaves that are entirely hairless. Its flowers are pure white and relatively large with long tubes (corolla tubes 25-50 mm long, corolla lobes 5 - 10 mm long). The large fruit (7.5 - 10 cm long) are egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid) or slightly elongated in shape.
  • Common Milk Vine (Marsdenia rostrata) has hairless or sparsely hairy young stems and leaves that are entirely hairless. Its flowers are cream or whitish and relatively small (corolla tubes 1.5 - 2.5 mm long, corolla lobes 3.5 - 5 mm long). The large fruit (5 - 7 cm long) are egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid) or slightly elongated in shape.