Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • One-leaf Cape Tulip (Moraea flaccida) is a perennial weed introduced from South Africa.
  • It produces salmon red to orange/yellow lily like flowers on a zig-zagged stem.
  • This plant is a garden escapee which has now become a significant weed throughout southern Australia.
  • One-leaf Cape Tulip is difficult to control chemically due to the dormancy of corms below the ground.
  • It is highly toxic to stock, and may invade pastures.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

One-leaf Cape Tulip (Moraea flaccida) is a perennial herb with annual leaves and flowers to 60 cm high, developing from an underground bulb (corm) 1 to 4 cm in diameter, which is white in colour but covered in a brown fibrous tunic. Each plant has only one leaf which is flat, folded and ribbed, 1–2 cm wide and up to 1 m long (longer than the flowering stalk). The leaves are attached to the stem above ground level and often droop or trail on the ground.

Flowers are borne on an erect, somewhat zig-zagged stem and are 3-5 cm in diameter. The six petals can vary from salmon-pink through orange to yellow in colour. Each petal is 2.5 to 4 cm long.

The fruit is a narrow, cylindrical, three-valved capsule up to 5.5 cm long which starts green and turns brown when mature, splitting from the apex to release the seeds. The brown seeds are irregular in shape and 1 to 2 mm long. Each capsule may contain up to 150 seeds (Funston & Faithfull 1999; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Weeds Australia undated).

For further information and assistance with identification of One-leaf Cape Tulip contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

Pink, Yellow, Orange

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

One-leaf Cape Tulip is found in temperate, sub-tropical and sometimes also semi-arid regions. It occurs on a range of soil types and prefers sunny locations. It occurs as a weed of grazing land mostly in areas with annual rainfall of less than 600 mm. It does not establish well on shaded site. Cape Tulip will invade dry coastal, heathland and heathy woodland, lowland grassland and grassy woodland, dry sclerophyll forest and woodland and freshwater wetland vegetation (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004; DPI 2007).

Are there similar species?

One-leaf Cape Tulip can be confused with the related Two-leaf Cape Tulip (Moraea miniata) and Cape Tulip (Moraea ochroleuca). However, Two-leaf Cape Tulip has 2 or 3 leaves, produces bulbils (small deciduous bulbs) in the leaf forks, does not produce seed, has a scaly covering around the corm and relatively broad petals (13 to 25 mm long). Cape Tulip is much less common and has yellow (rarely orange) flowers with relatively broad petals (30 to 40 mm long) (Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Agriculture: All parts of One-leaf Cape Tulip are toxic to all types of grazing animals. Cattle are generally more susceptible than sheep or horses. The poison is a glycoside which causes loss of appetite, weakness and depression, blindness, dysentery, scouring and paralysis of the hind legs. Death usually occurs within 3 days and treatment is charcoal or kaolin to absorb the poison. Stock accustomed to grazing on infestations are not affected as they know not to eat the plants. This results in desirable pasture species being replaced by One-leaf Cape Tulip through selective grazing, decreasing carrying capacity of the pasture. In some areas of Western Australia the problem is so severe farmers no longer run stock (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Native ecosystems: One-leaf Cape Tulip has recently increased its invasion of native habitats and has the potential to be a weed of conservation importance. In Western Australia it is a common weed of woodlands, granite rocks and limestone heaths throughout the south-west. It severely impedes the growth and regeneration of native ground-flora (Hussey et al. 1997; Muyt 2001; CSIRO Entomology 2007).

How does it spread?

One-leaf Cape Tulip was initially distributed widely as an attractive garden plant. Spread is now mainly due to the movement of seed and corms in contaminated farm produce and machinery, and by seeds adhering to wool and the feet of animals. Movement of hay and silage cut from infested paddocks is probably the most important cause of new infestations. Seed remains viable after passing though the digestive system of stock. Dried plants, with seed capsules still intact, break off and are blown around by the wind and carried in waterways. Hay or silage but from infested paddocks is another important method of dispersal for this weed (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

One-leaf Cape Tulip was introduced to Australia from South Africa on several occasions as an ornamental plant as early as 1843. By the early 1900s it was recognised as an important weed in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. It has not established in many other countries and is considered a weed only in Australia and New Zealand (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Prevention: Prevention of establishment of One-leaf Cape Tulip is the most effective control method. Care should be taken to not buy hay containing One-leaf Cape Tulip. Machinery dirty from work in affected areas should be washed down before being moved to uninfested areas (Hawkins et al. 2007).

Non-chemical control: Land management: One-leaf Cape Tulip can be effectively controlled in arable land and permanent pasture, but a carefully planned long term management program carried out over several years is required. In planning such programs integrated management strategies will achieve the best results. Early treatment of new infestations and small patches should be a priority. Control is complicated by dormancy of the corms and seeds. Only a limited proportion of plants grow in any one season. Control of these plants will not affect dormant corms. Any control program in agricultural situations should commence with cultivation or burning in late summer or early autumn to encourage the sprouting of dormant corms (Funston & Faithfull 1999).

Single individuals and small numbers of plants should be dug out and the corms and fruit destroyed by burning or immersion in boiling water (Funston & Faithfull 1999).

Manual control: Cultivation is an effective method of control during a very short period when the plant is in the 'corm transition stage'. This occurs when the old corms have shrivelled appreciably and the new corm at the base of the stem is not yet fully developed. The corm transition stage lasts approximately two weeks and usually occurs in June or July, with variation from year to year. Cultivate to a depth of at least 15 cm or to the depth of the deepest corm to kill most plants. Repeat after four weeks to kill surviving plants and again when necessary for at least four years until the dormant seeds and corms are exhausted (Funston & Faithfull 1999).

Chemical control: Cape Tulip can be effectively and economically controlled with herbicide treatment repeated over several seasons. It is most effective when the plant is just about to flower or has just begun to flower. Treatment must be undertaken annually to reduce the population of Cape Tulip. One season without treatment may allow the problem to worsen (Funston & Faithfull 1999).

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

Biological control: One-leaf Cape Tulip has also been recognised as a target for biological control through a cross-jurisdictional government process. This allows activities to be undertaken to develop effective biological controls. Cape Tulips are suitable targets for biological control because there are few close relatives among Australian native species and no related crops. Potential agents identified include weevils feeding on corms and Urodon species that feed on seeds. The most promising potential agent at present is the rust fungus Puccinia moraeae Syd. which affects the leaves (CSIRO Entomology 2007).

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Seeds and corms germinate after the autumn rains and new corms begin to form very soon while the old corm shrivels as the stored food is used by the developing shoot. Flowering stems are produced in winter and flowers appear in September. The above-ground growth dies by November. Plants do not flower or set seed until they are 2-3 years old. Corms move deeper into the soil by way of a contractile root whose action when drying drags the corm to about 10 cm deep. Corms have a period of dormancy which determines the number of plants to emerge in any one year depending on seasonal conditions. Up to 60% of corms may remain dormant through a whole growing season. The density if an infestation will vary from year to year, depending on the climatic conditions (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

One-leaf Cape Tulip is widespread throughout southern Australia and most common in south-west Western Australia. It is a serious weed of pastures, disturbed areas such as roadsides and native vegetation in areas of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria with a mediterranean climate (Navie 2004; Weeds Australia undated).

Where does it originate?

One-leaf Cape Tulip is native to South Africa, particularly at the Cape of Good Hope (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


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

Moraea flaccida

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Homeria collina var. miniata-minor Ker Gawl.
  • Homeria flaccida Sweet
  • Homeria breyniana (L.) G.J.Lewis (misapplied by Eichler, Hj. 1965, Supplement to J.M.Black's Flora of South Australia (Second Edition, 1943-1957). 88.; Willis, J.H. 1962, A Handbook to Plants in Victoria. 1: 333.)
  • Homeria collina (Thunb.) Salisb. (misapplied by Black, J.M. 1909, Naturalised Flora of South Australia. 149.; Gardner, C.A. 1930, Part I. Enumeratio Plantarum Australiae Occidentalis. 22.)

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Cape Tulip

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