Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from the Mediterranean region (southern Europe, north Africa, and western Asia), Topped Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is an upright fragrant shrub, with spikes of purple flowers.
  • Its leaves are greyish and strongly aromatic when crushed.
  • It is widely cultivated as an attractive garden plant with a strong lavender scent.
  • It has been used to extract lavender oil for perfumes and as a medicinal herb.
  • It is occasionally naturalised, being a weed of wasteland, disturbed habitats, pastoral areas and natural ecosystems, with major infestations and problems occurring in Victoria and South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
  • Control using physical and mechanical means, and herbicides.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Topped Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is a woody perennial upright small shrub growing to 60 cm, but occasionally up to 1 m high. It is a member of the mint family and shares the characteristics of this family in being aromatic to strongly fragrant when crushed, and densely branched. The leaves are greyish or greyish-green, downy or woolly-hairy, crowded, paired or clustered at nodes (part of a stem where leaves or branches arise), without a leaf stalk. They are very narrowly ovate (shaped like a section through the long axis of an egg and attached by the wider end), or oval-shaped, to oblanceolate (about 4 times as long as broad, broadest in the upper half and tapering to the base) to obovate (shaped like a section through the long axis of an egg and attached by the thinner end), usually 1–3 cm long and 1–5 mm wide, with smooth edges curved under.

Numerous small flowers are arranged in dense, compact, cylindrical or squarish spike-like heads (inflorescence) that are 2–5 cm long.  Inflorescence is borne on stalks 1–2.5 cm long. Inflorescence is hidden by rhombic (a quadrilateral whose four sides all have the same length) to obovate bracts (petal-like modified leaves), 1.2–2.5 cm long, deep bluish purple. The inflorescence is topped with up to 5 distinctive sterile leafy violet, purple or rarely white bracts each usually 1–2 cm long. Calyx 4–6 mm long. The flowers along the cylindrical inflorescence are deep purple (rarely white or pink), 5–10 mm long, tubular, 2-lipped, fragrant and often hidden by overlapping deep bluish purple or purple bracts.

The dry, brown, downy fruits split on maturity and contain seeds about 2 mm wide that are brown with numerous dark spots. (Toelken 1986; Wheeler 1987; Lamp & Collet 1989; Auld & Medd 1992; Conn 1992, 1999; Hussey et al. 1997; Thorp & Wilson 1998 -; Muyt 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Richardson et al. 2006; Upson & Andrews 2004; Western Australian Herbarium 2007).

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

Flower colour

Purple, Violet, White, Pink

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Topped Lavender grows in humid and subhumid warm-temperate to Mediterranean regions, usually with moderate rainfall, on a range of soils, from sandy soils to heavier clays. It occurs as a weed of neglected areas, on roadsides, railway lines, in paddocks, poor pastures and gravel pits. It typically occurs on disturbed, bare or lightly vegetated sites, as well as invading disturbed natural vegetation such as grassland, woodland and dry sclerophyll forest. It often occurs in rocky places and in riparian habitats in creeks, drainage lines and on riverbanks (Hussey et al. 1997; Conn 1999; Muyt 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Weber 2003; Western Australian Herbarium 2007).

Are there similar species?

Less commonly naturalised species of Lavender (also garden escapes) in Australia include:

French or Toothed Lavender (Lavandula dentata), which is distinguished from Topped Lavender by its finely scalloped or toothed leaves (the leaf margins are smooth and entire in Topped Lavender)

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia), which are less readily distinguished from Topped Lavender (Hussey et al. 1997; Richardson et al. 2006; Upson & Andrews 2004), so expert identification should be sought from a state or territory herbarium.

The distinct lavender aroma, especially from crushing the leaves, distinguishes these introduced Lavender species from any similar looking native plants (Muyt 2001).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Topped Lavender is commonly cultivated as an ornamental plant, with numerous cultivars and hybrids known. It is one of the species from which lavender oil is distilled for use in perfume manufacture (to perfume soaps, toiletries and other products), as well as extracts used in Europe for herbal medicines. Oil from this species was prized by artists for varnishing, and the flowers are claimed to be important in honey production. Topped Lavender is used in air fresheners and insecticides. It was advocated for sand-binding in earlier times (Kloot 1987; Conn 1992, 1999; Blaylock & Moerkerk 2000; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). However, it is a weed of native ecosystems, agriculture and urban areas, found on roadsides, streams and creek margins, drainage lines, disturbed areas and poor pastures and open woodlands and grasslands.

Native ecosystems: As a weed, Topped Lavender forms dense patches that eliminate and exclude ground-dwelling flora and smaller shrubs, as well as impeding regeneration of overstorey plants and impacting on native vegetation and biodiversity. Topped Lavender has invaded areas of conservation significance. For example, it is one of a number of invasive weeds threatening the survival of the rare White Beauty Spider Orchid in the Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia (CRC for Australian Weed Management 2004; Watts & Vidler 2006; Bowcher 2007). A weed of open grassy woodlands, and grasslands in Mediterranean type climates.

Agriculture: It can also have impacts on agriculture. It is not eaten by domestic stock and out-competes desirable pasture species, reducing the carrying capacity of the land and causing the loss of production. Heavy grazing around infestations encourages its spread and dense stands may also harbour rabbits (Thorp & Wilson 1998 – ; Muyt 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; CRC for Australian Weed management). Topped Lavender establishes well on bare soil and in disturbed sites, persisting and becoming dominant once established, to the detriment of other vegetation (Weber 2003).

Urban areas: Also invades roadsides, wasteland, and persists in abandoned gardens and little cared for areas, spreading by seed.

How does it spread?

Topped Lavender reproduces by seed which is dispersed by wind, water and sometimes by birds, animals, in soil and on clothing or other objects, and dumped garden waste. It is also spread vegetatively by the movement of root fragments and in dumped garden waste. Plants establish new colonies when perennial roots and crowns are dragged by cultivation equipment, road graders and other vehicles or machinery and introduced to new areas. In north-eastern Victoria it has been spread in road gravel taken from infested creeks (Blood 2001; Muyt 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Weber 2003). However, Topped Lavender has spread primarily through deliberate plantings in gardens and from this it has become a garden escapee.

What is its history in Australia?

Topped Lavender has been cultivated in Australia since the 1850s. The first records are from 1857 in Camden Park, New South Wales, and in 1858 from the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, South Australia. The grey-leaved variant is more common than the greener-leaved variant, which was introduced in the 1990s (Upson & Andrews 2004). Topped Lavender appears in Victorian nursery catalogues in the 1870s and was naturalised in Victoria by 1893 where it became well established in the north-east of the state and was proclaimed as a noxious weed in the 1920s (Thorp & Wilson 1998 – ; Upson & Andrews 2004; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Topped Lavender can be controlled by physical means, and with herbicides. Grazing is not effective and heavy grazing may make the infestation worse.

Non-chemical control: Individual plants can be hand-pulled, dug out or grubbed and the main roots removed in native, urban or agricultural areas. Large infested areas on agricultural land are best ploughed in spring and cultivated whenever seedlings and regrowth emerge. Either autumn sowing with a suitable pasture mixture or improving pastures will provide competition for further seedlings. Slashing and mowing of mature plants alone will not be effective because the plant regrows readily from the woody base, although this method may be effective when used with herbicide application.

Fire: Dense populations can be burnt (following proper controlled burn procedures and regulations) in autumn to open up infestations for follow-up control with herbicides or mechanical control.

Chemical control: May also be used, such as spraying regrowth in spring. Since seedlings colonise best over bare ground it is a good strategy to establish a vigorous groundcover with more desirable species to minimise re-invasion. Because the seed of Topped Lavender is long-lived in the soil, monitoring and control practices must be continued for several years (Blaylock & Moerkerk 2000; Muyt 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Weber 2003; Bowcher 2007).

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)

Topped Lavender is a perennial plant (living for more than 2 years), flowering mainly from September to January, but sometimes from late winter onwards (Conn 1999; Muyt 2001). Seeds are produced in abundance in late spring and early summer and may germinate at almost any time of the year (Muyt 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Early growth is slow and plants take two to three years to produce flowers. Plants are evergreen with most growth occurring over winter, spring and early summer. They are relatively dormant during hotter, drier months over summer and autumn (Muyt 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Topped Lavenderis is mainly a problem weed where it has invaded pastures and natural habitats in some areas (Auld & Medd 1992).

In New South Wales, isolated patches on the South Western Slopes, Central and Southern Tablelands, Central and South Coasts and the Australian Capital Territory, at the Mount Stromlo Observatory site in Canberra.

In South Australia it is established in south-east area e.g. the Southern Lofty region, Adelaide Hills and the Clare Valley. 

In Tasmania it is established on the eastern side of the Island.

In Victoria its established in the the north-east, Central Highlands, Western District. 

In Western Australia it has become established as a weed in south-western area between Perth and Manjimup. 

(AVH 2021; Conn 1992, 1999;; Blaylock & Moerkerk 2000;  Hussey et al. 1997; Muyt 2001; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Toelken 1986; Western Australian Herbarium (1998–); Wheeler 1987; ).  

Where does it originate?

Topped Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, and has been widely cultivated throughout the world as an ornamental plant (Upson & Andrews 2004; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001) and for oil production.

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

Lavandula stoechas subsp. stoechas

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

Lavandula stoechas 


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Bush Lavender, French Lavender, Common French Lavender, Italian Lavender, Spanish Lavender, Wild Lavender, Stoechas Lavender

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