Weed of the Month: Cestrum

Green Cestrum, Orange Cestrum and Red Cestrum

The July weed of the month is Cestrum.

There are four types of weedy Cestrum found in the Port Macquarie Hastings area: Green cestrum (Cestrum parqui), Red cestrum (C. elegans), Orange cestrum (C. aurantiacum) and Lady-of-the-night (C. nocturnum).

Highly poisonous

All Cestrum varieties are highly poisonous to people and animals, and are known to have caused a number of livestock deaths. All parts of the plants are toxic, with symptoms ranging from brain and liver poisoning to rashes and breathing difficulties. They seed prolifically and are spread by birds. They can form dense thickets, exclude animals and degrade productivity. Cestrum varieties are native to Central and South America and were introduced as ornamental plants for their bright, tubular flowers.

Lady-of -the-night cestrum berries

All Cestrum varieties are woody shrubs 2-3m tall, with light-coloured, brittle stems. Their leaves are generally up to 10cm long and 2-5cm wide with pointed tips. They range from light to dark green, whilst Red cestrum is covered in light red hairs. The bark and leaves can often produce a foul smell when crushed. Their flowers are tubular with flared petals at the tips. Green cestrum has yellow flowers with green to black berries, Lady-of-the-night has pale flowers that open at night with white berries, whilst the other varieties flowers’ reflect their common names.

Take care when treating

Cestrum is tolerant to a range of soil types and rainfall areas, but commonly grows along waterways, forest edges and disturbed areas.  Care must be taken when treating Cestrum due to its toxicity. Livestock must be excluded from sprayed plants, as they are still poisonous when dead. Refer to NSW WeedWise and contact Council’s Biosecurity Officer for detailed treatment information.

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