Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from southern Africa,Tufted Honeyflower (Melianthus comosus) is a woody, erect shrub normally around 1.5 m tall with large divided leaves to 20 cm long, with 9-13 leaflets, each leaflet is deeply toothed.  
  • Flowers are large and red with irregular petals, which are followed by a bladder-like fruit.
  • It is an escaped garden ornamental whose bladder-like seed capsule is easily spread by wind and water.
  • All parts of the plant are extremely toxic to livestock and humans, although its unpleasant odour means it is rarely eaten.
  • Primarily invades disturbed land and degraded pasture, but can also invade watercourses where it can alter stream flow. Infestations reduce pasture productivity, limit biodiversity and harbour pests.
  • The plant is generally controlled using a combination of physical and chemical measures with a follow up chemical treatment to address any regrowth.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Tufted Honeyflower (Melianthus comosus) is an upright shrub with many woody branches that grows about from 1 – 1.5 metres tall rarey reaching to 2.5 m tall. The large leaves (up to 20 cm long) are clustered at the end of branches and consist of 4 to 6 pairs of serrated leaflets along a winged stalk. The leaves are sparsely hairy on the upper surface with a downy texture beneath. Each leaflet is about 4 to 6 cm long and 1 to 2 cm wide. Leaves have an unpleasant smell when crushed (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

The loosely clustered flowers are red with four uneven, clawed petals produced from a pink, black and green pouched calyx. THe clustered flowers are nooding at the top center of the plant.

The fruit is a bladder-like (inflated), four-sided capsule (2.5 – 4 cm long) with net-like veining, containing up to 8 seeds. The seeds are black or dark brown, shiny and smooth, from 3 to 6 mm in diameter and are more or less spherical, but slightly pointed at one end (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

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

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Tufted Honeyflower prefers heavier soils and exposed sites in subtropical regions, but has become naturalised in areas of Victoria and South Australia where it is a weed of pastures and water courses, coastal areas and native bushland preferring degraded pasture and disturbed areas (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Cape Honeyflower (Melianthus major) is similar to Tufted Honeyflower. However Cape Honeyflower, which occurs on the Central Cost of New South Wales is taller, growing to 3 m, has much larger hairless leaves (up to 1m in length) and red-brown flowers borne in dense, nodding clusters. Cape Honeyflower is also poisonous (Auld & Medd 1987).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Agriculture: Tufted honeyflower (Melianthus comosus) can invade degraded pastures and reduce productivity. All parts of Tufted Honeyflower are extremely toxic to stock and humans, although due to its unpleasant odour seems to deter animals from grazing it at any stage. If it is consumed death occurs quickly. Dense clumps restrict animal movement and reduce pasture production while providing shelter for pests. It can also divert stream flow if growing in water courses. The flowers are attractive to bees which produce a dark, possibly poisonous honey (Parson & Cuthbertson 2001).

Native ecosystems: Can grow in degraded open vegetation, grasslands and open bushland, reducing biodiversity while providing shelter for pests.

Human impacts: Tufted Honeyflower could also potentially affect human recreation by blocking access on land and in water (Victorian Resources Online 2007).

What to do if a person is poisoned:

  • If the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • If the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.
  • If going to a hospital take a piece of the plant for identification.

This species has been valued in Africa and Europe the past for its medicinal properties (Parson & Cuthbertson 2001).

How does it spread?

Tufted Honeyflower has mainly been spread through its use as a garden ornamental. Wind and water also play an important role in dispersal as the bladder like seed capsule can be blown long distances and float along watercourses. Dispersal of seed by contaminated machinery and agricultural produce is possible but is not nearly as important (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

The history of Tufted Honeyflower's introduction to Australia is not known, but it was a popular ornamental in early gardens and it is from these that current infestations often originated (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Both physical and chemical techniques can be used to control Tufted Honeyflower depending on the extent of infestation.

Non-chemical control: Individual plants can be grubbed taking care to remove the majority of the root system. Larger clumps can be bulldozed or pulled with a tractor and chain, then ploughed to bring roots to the surface before raking and burning.

Chemical control: Further chemical treatment will then be needed to prevent regeneration. Individual plants can also be removed near ground level and the fresh wound painted with herbicide (cut and paint technique), however follow up treatment with herbicide will be needed to address any regrowth. Herbicides that are residual in the soil have shown some effectiveness in killing plants without any physical treatment (Parson & Cuthbertson 2001; Wyndham City Council 2006).

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)

Seeds of the Tufted Honeyflower germinate at any time of the year if moisture is available, however seedlings are sensitive to desiccation and trampling by stock so many do not survive. An extensive root system is developed in the first year with the first flowering occurring when the plant is 2 years old. Mature plants flower in spring, producing seed in late spring to early summer. Plants are evergreen, although some leaves are shed in autumn and replaced in spring (Parson & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Tufted Honeyflower is naturalised in Victoria near Benalla in the north east, the Grampians and near Geelong, Maryborough and Bendigo, and in the Brisbane Ranges. infestations are found at Cape Jervis in South Australia, with smaller patches near Adelaide and Port Lincoln. It is not considered naturalised in other states, although it can be found at a few abandoned house sites in Tasmania (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; AVH 2021). It has been recorded in Murramarang National Park on the far south coast of New South Wales, however it is unknown if this population still exists (ACT Commissioner for the Environment 2004).

Where does it originate?

Tufted Honeyflower is native to southern Africa and is found as a garden plant all over the world (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

Melianthus comosus

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Tufted Honey Flower, Honey Bush, Touch-me-not, Don't Touch Me, Cape Honeyflower

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