Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from South Africa, Cape Ivy (Delairea odorata) is a robust scrambler or climber forming dense cover, with rounded to oval ivy-like thin green leaves, on stems to 10 metres long, with many clusters of yellow flower
  • A serious environmental weed in southern Australia.
  • Smothers and out-competes native vegetation and prevents the regeneration of native species.
  • Cape Ivy spreads by seeds (actually one-seeded fruits) that are spread by wind, water, on animals and clothing, and in garden waste.
  • Spread vegetatively by forming roots when stems and stem pieces contact the ground, further spread when stem transported on machinery, by floods and slashing, in garden waste and soil, and during removal of the plant.
  • Control of Cape Ivy requires an integrated program utilising manual removal and herbicide application.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Cape Ivy (Delairea odorata) is a perennial smooth hairless climber or scrambler with stems that grows to 5 metres long (sometimes longer to 10 metres). The stems are round, usually less than 10 mm in diameter,  light green (often with purple streaks). The leaves are borne on leaf-stalks 20–70 mm long. Leaves are circular in shape to ovate (egg-shaped and attached by the wider end) with about seven to nine pointed lobes that give them an ivy-like appearance, 30-80 mm long and wide.   Leaves are mid-green in colour (sometimes irregularly tinged purple), somewhat fleshy, pale green, often purple-tinged, with 3–7- palmate veins. Stipules (small appendage at the bases of leaves) present kidney-shaped, 5–10 mm wide.

The individual flower heads form an inflorescence of many (about 15–50) flower heads (capitula), arranged into dense corymbose panicles at the ends of the stem and branches on and main flower stalks. Individual flower heads are capituala (a dense cluster of stalkless flowers or florets, in a tightly packed head) daisy like, 2–3 mm diameter. Flowers are surrounded by bracts (leaf-like organs surrounding the flower-heads), There are 8–10, bracts lanceolate (lance shaped, about 4 times as long as broad, broadest in the lower half and tapering to the tip) , 3–4 mm long, glabrous (smooth with no hairs) except for an apical tuft of hairs. Individual flowers (florets) are 10-12, tubular, yellow, scented, exceeding the bracts, but florets lack the petal-like ray florets found in more 'typical' daisies. After flowering, individual flower heads produce several one-seeded fruits.

The fruits 'seeds' (cypselas) are reddish-brown, one-seeded fruits about 2 mm long, each crowned by a tuft of fine white bristles (the pappus) 5-6 mm long (Jeanes 1999; Muyt 2001; VicFlora 2016).

For further information and assistance with identification of Cape Ivy contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Cape Ivy favours disturbed sites in gullies and on the margins of remnant bushland in cooler, wetter areas. It occurs in woodlands, wet and dry forests, warm temperate rainforest, heathlands, coastal tea-tree scrub, on sand dunes, riparian vegetation, along roadsides and in neglected and degraded landscapes (Carr et al. 1992; FloraVic 2016; Jeanes 1999; Muyt 2001).

Are there similar species?

Cape Ivy is generally similar to another weedy climbing daisy; Climbing Groundsel (Senecio angulatus) which is naturalised in widely scattered locations in eastern New South Wales, southern Victoria and South Australia (Muyt 2001).

Climbing Groundsel (Senecio angulatus) differs from Cape Ivy in having flower heads with conspicuous yellow ray florets and leaves lacking pointed basal lobes (Reid 2008 pers. comm.).

Another serious weed in southern Australia, English Ivy (Hedera hibernica syn. H. helix) is also superficially similar to Cape Ivy but differs in having woody stems, darker leaves and clusters of small greenish flowers (Cochrane 2001).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Cape Ivy is a highly invasive environmental weed. It invades waterways, moist gullies, closed forests and margins, open woodlands, roadsides, waste areas and coastal areas. Also commonly found in gardens and along fences and urban areas parks.

Agriculture: Not a known weed of crops and pastures, although it may be present on field margins, as well as in irrigation canals and drains surrounding these fields. A possible threat to forestry, horticultural crops, and orchards if allowed to establish.

Native ecosystems:  weed capable of smothering and out-competing native vegetation by climbing over shrubs, up tree branches and across ground flora to form loose mats up to 30 cm thick that prevent regeneration of native species (Blood 2001; Muyt 2001). It can kill shrubs and trees, resulting in light gaps and leading to more weed invasion (Blue Mountains City Council Bushcare 2002). It is a very serious threat to native vegetation in scrub on coastal sand dunes, heathland and heathy woodland, dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, damp sclerophyll forest, wet sclerophyll forest, warm temperate rainforest and along streams (Carr et al.1992; National Herbarium of Victoria 2007). There are associated negative impacts on fauna because of habitat degradation and loss of plant species.

Studies in the United States have identified chemicals in Cape Ivy that make it unsuitable food for most fauna, and toxic to mammals, spiders and fish (California Invasive Plant Council undated). 

Urban areas: It can also occur as a weed in disturbed urban situations, such as on fences along railway verges (Reid 2008 pers. comm.).


How does it spread?

Cape Ivy reproduces vegetatively by stem fragments, and by seed. The seeds, which are actually one-seeded fruits, are spread by a variety of means including wind, water, on animals and clothing, and in garden waste.

Where the stems of established plants contact the ground they can form roots. The stems break easily and new plants can form when stem fragments take root after being spread on machinery, by floods and slashing, in garden waste and soil, and during removal of the plant (Jeanes 1999; Muyt 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

It is not known when Cape Ivy was introduced into Australia. It was collected in 1880 from Mt. Dromedary on the south coast of New South Wales and in 1884 from Studley Park, close to Melbourne, Victoria, and in 1906 from Adelaide South Australia (AVH 2021). Although rarely sold in nurseries, it is not uncommon at small country markets (Blood 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Small infestations of Cape Ivy can be removed manually. Remove the root system or treat with herbicide using the cut and paint method when controlling Cape Ivy, otherwise it will regrow. All remaining stems not treated with herbicide that come in contact with soil will take root if left on site.

Chemical control: Cape Ivy can be sprayed in winter with non-selective and selective herbicides, although selective herbicides generally provide better results. Larger infestations commonly require follow up treatments over the next 1–2 years (Muyt 2001). Cut and paint method can be used to stop treated plant regrowing,

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Non-chemical control: Physical control: Small infestations of Cape Ivy can be removed manually. Climbing stems can be severed at the base and left to dry out in the canopy. Broken stem pieces must be collected and removed from the site to prevent them from taking root (Muyt 2001).

Mechanical control: Not normally used as this method damages the plants or supporting structures Cape Ivy grows over. Mechanical control also breaks up the stems that be spread further taking root forming new plants, increasing density and distribution of infestations.

Competition and management: Toxic to stock causing liver damage after long and continuous consumption.

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

The main time of active growth for Cape Ivy is from March to November, with a dormant period from December to February. It produces flowers from May to September and fruit in October and November (Jeanes 1999; Victorian Department of Primary Industries 2004).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Cape Ivy is widely distributed in south-eastern Australia, from Brunswick Heads in New South Wales near the Queensland border, south along the east coast, through southern Victoria to the Mount Lofty Range in South Australia near Adelaide. In Tasmania, it has been recorded from several localities on the north coast and in the southeast near Hobart. It is also recorded in Western Australia from two localities in the far southwest near the coast (AVH 2021; Harden 1992).

Where does it originate?

Cape Ivy is native to moist mountain forests of South Africa where it has a limited natural range (California Invasive Plant Council undated).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?

Not declared in any Australian state or territory.

Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Delairea odorata

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Senecio mikanioides Otto ex Walp.
  • Senecio scandens DC. [non D.Don (1825)]

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Ivy Groundsel, German Ivy, Italian Ivy, Parlor Ivy, Mile-a-minute

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