Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Ochna (Ochna serrulata) is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 2 m tall.
  • It is a significant environmental weed in urban bushland in south-eastern Queensland, and around Sydney. It is also naturalised on Lord Howe Island.
  • The seeds of Ochna are bird dispersed, allowing it to be readily dispersed from garden plantings into nearby bushland.
  • Ochna is a very hardy plant and often re-sprouts after mechanical and chemical control. Follow-up control is a critical element in its management.
  • Ochna is a highly ornamental species that was introduced into Australia as a garden plant.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Ochna (Ochna serrulata) is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 2 m tall. The stems are covered with small, raised, light-coloured dots, known as lenticels. The leaves are very shortly stalked, elliptical in shape (up to 8 cm long and 2 cm wide) and have finely toothed edges. The veins on the leaves are raised.

The flowers usually occur singly in the join between the leaves and branches. Each flower consists of five bright yellow petals (about 1 cm long). The petals soon drop off to reveal five large petal-like sepals which are green at first (about 1 cm long) but turn bright red and enlarge (to about 1.5 cm long) when in fruit. The sepals could be mistaken for petals.

The fruit consists of four to five small berries (drupelets), each shaped like small olives (about 1 cm long), and sits in a ring on a bright red, fleshy base (receptacle). The berries are green to begin with, but turn black as they mature. Each berry contains a single seed (Green 1994).

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

Flower colour

Yellow, Red, Green

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Ochna grows well in shade or full sun. It is tolerant of extended dry spells but is frost tender (Muyt 2001). In Australia, Ochna has been recorded in wide range of habitats including rainforest, sclerophyll forests, cleared paddocks and river and creek banks. It grows on a wide range of soil types from sand to clay (National Herbarium of New South Wales 2007; Queensland Herbarium 2007).

Are there similar species?

Ochna is a very distinctive plant, especially when in flower and fruit, and is rarely confused with other plant species.

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Native ecosystems: Ochna is an invasive species and can establish in both undisturbed and disturbed bushland (Muyt 2001). In disturbed areas, large dense infestations can develop that prevent native understorey plants from growing (Muyt 2001). Ochna is ranked as one of the 25 most significant invasive plants in south-east Queensland on the basis of its perceived detrimental environmental impacts (Batianoff & Butler 2003).

How does it spread?

In south-eastern Queensland, seeds of the Ochna were found to be dispersed by Figbirds (Sphecotheres viridis) (Gosper et al. 2006). Although birds are important in the dispersal of this species, passing seed through their gut does not increase germination rate (Gosper et al. 2006). Seed longevity in soil was found to be very low, with less than one percent seed being viable after six months and no seeds viable after 12 months (Gosper et al. 2006).

What is its history in Australia?

Ochna was introduced to Australia as a garden and hedge plant and is grown as a popular ornamental plant throughout the warm coastal regions of New South Wales and Queensland (Muyt 2001). It is also occasionally cultivated in Victoria (National Herbarium of Victoria 2007). It was first recorded as naturalised in Queensland in 1932 (Baintoff & Butler 2003).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: Manual control: Small plants and seedlings (under 10 cm tall) of Ochna can be successfully dug out, especially when soil is moist. Care needs to be taken so that as much tap root is removed as possible as plants can regenerate from tap root material that is left in the soil (Hajkowicz 1996; Muyt 2001; Breaden & Armstrong 2004; Land Protection 2007). Low seed viability of Ochna presents an opportunity to target control efforts in spring before fruit set, when there are low numbers of viable seeds in the soil (Gosper et al. 2006).

Chemical control: Plants respond to herbicide treatments, but most success is achieved when herbicides are applied during the spring-summer growing periods. Various methods of herbicide application can be utilised, including cut and paint as well as frilling and spraying. Follow-up control is often necessary as plants can re-shoot after treatments (Hajkowicz 1996; Muyt 2001; Breaden & Armstrong 2004; Land Protection 2007).

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

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

In south-eastern Queensland, Ochna flowers in spring. Green fruit are present from September through to February and they ripen from September through to March, with the majority ripe in December. Seeds usually germinate within a month of being sown (Gosper et al. 2006). Plants can re-sprout after fire and other forms of disturbance such as chemical and mechanical control (Benson & McDougall 1999; Muyt 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

In Australia, Ochna is mainly naturalised in rainforest, dry sclerophyll forest and riparian vegetation throughout coastal, south-eastern Queensland (Williams et al. 1984; Csurhes & Edwards 1998). It is also naturalised in New South Wales where it can be often found in urban bushland, especially in suburban Sydney (Benson & McDougall 1999) and on the north-east coast, as well as on Lord Howe Island (Swarbrick & Skarratt 1994; Gosper et al. 2006).

Where does it originate?

Ochna is native to the southern African countries of South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho (GRIN 2007).

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

Ochna serrulata

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

Diporidium serrulatum Hochst.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Mickey Mouse Bush, Mickey Mouse Plant, Birds Eye Bush

Blackberry – a community-driven approach in Victoria

Blackberry the weed (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) was first introduced to Australia by European settlers in the mid-1800s as a fruit. It was recognised as a weed by mid-1880s. Blackberry is a serious issue across Australia. It is estimated that blackberry infests approximately 8.8 million hectares of land at an estimated cost of $103 million in annual control and production losses.

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