moth plantMoth plant

Common name: Moth plant; kapok plant
Botanical name: Araujia hortorum
Management programme: Advisory

Originally from South America. It was introduced to New Zealand as an ornamental species and recorded as naturalised in 1888.

Why is it a pest?

  • Grows rapidly forming large, heavy, long-lived masses in the canopy.
  • Produces masses of viable seed that travel long distances via wind.
  • Smothers plants and prevents the establishment of native plants.
  • Butterflies feeding on moth plant can die from starvation due to feeding parts becoming gummed up.
  • Sap is poisonous and can be a skin irritant.

Where is it found?

Almost any frost free habitat including intact and disturbed forests and margins, tracks, cliffs, coastline, shrublands, mangroves and inshore and offshore islands.

What does it look like?

  • Rampant, evergreen vine with a smelly, milky sap and twining flexible stems that are covered in down and woody near the base.
  • Dark green leaves are hairless and dull on top and greyish-downy underneath and opposite on the stems.
  • Clusters of 2-3 bell shaped white flowers (December to May), occasionally with pink streaks, are followed by distinctive thick, leathery, pear shaped choko-like pods (autumn - winter).
  • Pods contain kapok-like pulp which splits open to disperse many black, thistle-down like seeds.

What are the rules?


The Bay of Plenty Regional Council does not enforce the control of advisory species. It is landowner/occupier responsibility to manage these pests. Council may provide advice on how to manage or control these species if required.

How do you get rid of it?

Poisonous and can cause dermatitis, protect skin against contact with sap. Destroy ripe pods first to minimise seed. Pods should be incinerated, buried deeply or disposed of at refuse station.

  • Hand pull (all year)
  • Cut and Paste (summer to autumn)
  • Spraying (summer to autumn)


CAUTION: When using any herbicide or pesticide, PLEASE READ THE LABEL THOROUGHLY to ensure that all instructions and directions for the purchase, use and storage of the product, are followed and adhered to.

Read more on pest control advice, information and regulations.