Moth plant

Common name:  Moth plant
Scientific name:  Araujia hortorum
Management programme:  Exclusion

Why is it a pest?

Moth plant is bad for both biodiversity and human health. It climbs over and smothers shrubs and small trees and also spreads over the ground, smothering small native plants and seedlings. Both the fruits and stem produce a caustic milky sap when crushed or broken, which causes skin irritation in some people and is poisonous to humans.

What does it look like?

Surprisingly, this plant looks nothing like the moth it’s named after. Moth plant is a broad-leaved, herbaceous (herb) climber and can grow to over 5m tall. It has almost oblong-shaped leaves and produces a lot of flowers, but small amount of fruit. The fruits are as big as a fist and contain about 400 seeds, and mature fruits normally stay on the vines for long periods.

What are the rules?

There are no rules for landowners in Otago regarding gunnera. Under Otago’s pest plan, gunnera is only classified as a pest in the site-led areas; Otago Peninsula, West Harbour/Mt Cargill, Quarantine Island and Goat Island.

The goal is to progressively contain gunnera in these areas to prevent or improve on damage to the indigenous ecosystem values at these sites.

How will we achieve that?

Otago Regional Council will be responsible for controlling the plant if it gets into Otago. Please let us know if you think you have spotted moth plant by calling 0800 474 082 or emailing

How can I control it?

If you think you have seen moth plant, please let us know by calling ORC on 0800 474 082 or emailing and we will take care of controlling it.

Management programme

Page last updated 26 June 2024.