Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from the Mediterranean region, Pheasant's Eye (Adonis microcarpa) is an annual weed to 50 cm tall, with finely divided leaves, and bright red or yellow flowers.
  • A weeds of crops and pastures and roadside especially in grain  growing and agricultural areas.
  • It may be very abundant in cereal or pasture crops, particularly in south-eastern South Australia.
  • Also common in similar areas in south west Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and southern QLD.
  • Grows mostly on alkaline soils in areas of 300–500 mm annual rainfall.
  • It is toxic to stock and may cause death if consumed in quantity but generally is regarded as unpalatable to stock.
  • It is controllable by relatively simple techniques like early cultivation and/or application of selective herbicides.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Pheasant's Eye (Adonis microcarpa) is an erect, usually branching, annual herb that grows to about 50 cm high, with stems softly hairy near the base but otherwise hairless. The leaves are finely divided (often parsley-like), with 2 or 3 levels of division, and are about 6 cm long and 4 cm overall, leaves on a petiole (flower-stalk). The individual segments are usually only about 1 mm wide. 

The crimson red or yellow flowers (occasionally scarlet with a black centre) are solitary on the end of branches. Flowers are showy 1.2–2.5 cm in diameter, on a on an elongated peduncle (flower-stalk) about 1–5 cm long that usually elongate further as the seeds ripen. There are usually 5–10 petals each 7–12 mm long, and 5 shorter segments (the sepals) outside these. At the centre of the flower are the numerous stamens about 5 mm long with  dark purple anthers about 1 mm long. Stamens surrounding the immature seeds which are arranged in a small conical structure a little like a small unripe strawberry or a miniature pine-cone.

As the seeds (achenes) mature the section of stem on which they are attached elongates until it is about 1–2.5 cm long when fully ripe. The individual seeds (achenes) typically 10–50 per flower are roughly egg-shaped to triangular in outline but angular, 2.5–3 mm long and patterned by an irregular network of raised veins. They are greenish-brown or blackish when ripe (Eichler & Jeanes 2007).

For further information and assistance with identification of Pheasant's Eye, contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

Red, Yellow, Multi-coloured

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Pheasant's Eye thrives in warmer areas of southern Australia with annual rainfall of around 300–400 mm per year and where soils are alkaline loams – conditions present in some of the most successful cereal growing areas of the country. It is in these areas that the densest infestations occur, either in cereal crops or in sown pasture. In areas of higher rainfall (up to about 600 mm per annum) infestations tend to be smaller and more scattered (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992; Eichler & Jeanes 2007; VicFlora 2016).

Are there similar species?

Yellow-flowered forms of Pheasant's Eye might be mistaken for species of Buttercups (Ranunculus species), but no terrestrial Buttercups have leaves that are as finely divided. Red-flowered forms are most likely to be mistaken for weedy Poppy species (Papaver species). From these it may be distinguished by the more finely divided leaves, the 5 sepals (only 2 in Papaver species), and the non-capsular fruits (Eichler & Jeanes 2007; Kiger 2007).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Pheasant's Eye is only a weed impacting agricultural and is also a weed of roadsides, disturbed areas and degraded pastures. As plants require abundant light for germination and early growth its does not compete well with other early annual weeds. It is normally found in areas of regular disturbance somewhat free from competition.

Agriculture: Pheasant's Eye can be a very serious weed of pasture and cereal crops, particularly when growth of either of these is impeded (for example, by poor follow-up rains or other unseasonable conditions). Pheasant's Eye has a high light requirement so is a relatively poor competitor if growth of accompanying species is good. Pheasant's Eye is known to be toxic to stock. Horse, sheep and pig deaths have been reported (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992), and it has been implicated in the death of young cattle in New South Wales (McBarron 1983). Fortunately however, it is generally not palatable to stock. The toxic components are glycosides, particularly adonin, which is a cardiac stimulant. Symptoms resemble those of severe gastroenteritis (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992).

Native ecosystems: Little is known about the impacts of Adonis microcarpa on natural and anthropogenic systems. The majority of information about its impacts relate to production systems.

Urban areas: Occasional a weed of recently disturbed areas, roadside and embankments, normally in agricultural areas, occasional a weed in similar areas in regional towns. 

How does it spread?

The roughened surface of the seed of Pheasant's Eye allows it to adhere to wool, fur and fabrics, permitting its short- and long-distance dispersal (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992). Being a weed of cereal crops, with seed of about the size of a grain of wheat, there is likely to be dispersal through contaminated cereal seed (Myers & Beazley 2003).

What is its history in Australia?

Pheasant's Eye was first recorded as naturalised in Australia near Narrabri, New South Wales in 1903 with subsequent records near Goondiwindi, Queensland (1905), Roseworthy, South Australia (1915) and Rainbow, Victoria (1943). It is grown as an ornamental, and garden-grown plants were most likely the origin of the naturalised populations. 

To date, the only record of the species in the Northern Territory is from a garden-escaped plant (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Pheasant's Eye can be controlled by cultivation and herbicides.

Non-chemical control: Pheasant's Eye can normally be controlled simply by cultivation in paddocks where cereal crops are intended, because it usually germinates earlier than the cereal and will not germinate later or under competition from dense pastures or crops. Higher seeding rates and adequate fertilisation to improve crop competition reduces the effects of the weed. 

Chemical control: It may also be controlled by the use of selective herbicides (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992). A number of herbicides containing bromoxynil are effective.

Please see Parsons & Cuthbertson (2001); and  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)

Seeds of Pheasant's Eye germinate mostly in autumn following rains, continuing sporadically through to June. Growth of seedlings is rapid and flowering usually commences in August and may continue through to November. Plants die in early summer, but the fruits are shed before the plant dies (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Pheasant's Eye has been recorded as naturalised from near Dalby in south-eastern Queensland, through the western slopes of the Great Divide in New South Wales south to Gundagai and in western Victoria, particularly around Dimboola.

It is very common through south-eastern South Australia near Spencer and St Vincent Gulf and west of Ceduna, and in south-western Western Australia where it is scattered through the wheat belt between Kojanup and Northam (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992; Eichler & Jeanes 2007; AVH 2021).

Where does it originate?

Pheasant's Eye is native to southern Europe, particularly the Mediterranean region.

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?

Not declared in any states or territories.

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

Adonis microcarpa

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

Adonis cupaniana Guss.

Adonis dentata subsp. intermedia (Webb & Berthel.) Riedl

Adonis dentatus subsp. intermedius Riedl (incorrect spelling)

Adonis dentata subsp. microcarpa (DC) Riedl

Adonis dentatus subsp. microcarpus Riedl (incorrect spelling)

Adonis intermedia Webb & Berthel.

Adonis aestivalis L. (misapplied by Willis, J.H. 1973, A Handbook to Plants in Victoria Edn 2. 2: 146.)

Adonis annua L. (misapplied by Black, J.M. 1919, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of South Australia. 43: 23-44.; Maiden, J.H. 1912, Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales. 23: 810.; Eichler, Hj. 1965, Flora of South Australia, supplement. 149.; Bailey, F.M. 1909, Queensland Agricultural Journal. 23(5): 217.)

Adonis autumnalis L. (misapplied by Black, J.M. 1948, Flora of South Australia Edn 2. 2: 364.)

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Small-fruited Pheasant's Eye, Red Chamomile

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