Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Two-leaf Cape Tulip (Moraea miniata) is a perennial weed introduced from South Africa. It is less common than one-leaf Cape tulip; the two species may grow together.
  • This plant is a garden escapee which has become a significant weed throughout southern Australia.
  • Cormil production may exceed many thousands per square metre, and corms may remain viable in the soil for many years.
  • Two-leaf Cape Tulip is difficult to control chemically due to the dormancy of corms and cormils below the ground.
  • It is highly toxic to stock, and may invade pastures and native vegetation.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Two-leaf Cape Tulip (Moraea miniata) is a perennial herb with annual leaves and flowers to 60cm high, developing from an underground bulb (corm) covered in a scaly, black tunic. There are usually clusters of cormils (small bulb-like structures) in the swollen leaf bases and often around the main corm. Each plant has 2–3 leaves which are flat, folded and ribbed, 1 to 2 cm wide and up to 100 cm 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. They are 2 to 4 cm in diameter with six pink petals with yellow bases dotted with green, each petal 1.3 to 2.5 cm long.

The fruit is a small green capsules up to 1.5 cm long that turns brown as it matures (Weeds of Australia 2016). The capsules do not contain any seeds (Animal and Plant Control Commission 2000; Navie 2004; Weeds Australia undated).

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

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Two-leaf Cape Tulip is found in temperate, sub-tropical and 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. Two-leaf Cape Tulip will invade dry coastal, heathland and heathy woodland, lowland grassland and grassy woodland, dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, freshwater wetland vegetation, roadsides, parks, disturbed sites, waste areas and crops (Carr et al. 1992; Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Two-leaf Cape Tulip can be confused with the related One-leaf Cape Tulip (Moraea flaccida) and Cape Tulip (Moraea ochroleuca). However, One-leaf Cape tulip has only 1 leaf, does not produce bulbils (small deciduous bulbs) in the leaf forks, produces seed, has a brown, fibrous covering around the corm and elongated petals (30 to 40 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 Two-leaf Cape Tulip are toxic to all types of grazing animals. 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 Two-leaf Cape Tulip through selective grazing, decreasing carrying capacity of the pasture. Patches can be very dense with almost 7 000 corms per square metre recorded in some areas (DPI 2007; Animal and Plant Control Commission 2000).

Native ecosystems: Two-leaf Cape Tulip invades native habitats and has the potential to be a weed of conservation importance. In Western Australia it is a 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?

Two-leaf Cape Tulip is spread by movement of corms and bulbils caught in farm machinery and in agricultural produce. It may also spread during the cultivation of paddocks. As the plant in Australia apparently never produces seeds, all spread is by vegetative means (Navie 2004; DPI 2007).

What is its history in Australia?

Two-leaf Cape Tulip was originally introduced as a garden plant from South Africa. By the early 1900s both species of Cape Tulip (one- and two-leaf) were established as weeds of pasture in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia (CSIRO Entomology 2007).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

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

In general, control methods for Two-leaf Cape Tulip are similar to those of one-leaf Cape tulip.

Non-chemical control: Two-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).

Cultivation is probably less effective for controlling Two-leaf Cape Tulip than One-leaf Cape tulip, because of the numerous small cormils formed around the main corm and in the leaf bases. Killing the main corm by cultivation will not affect the cormils and the cormils survive for longer than the seeds of one-leaf Cape tulip.

Chemical control: There is also a difference in herbicide susceptibility with Two-leaf Cape Tulip susceptible over a longer period from corm transition to early flowering (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992).

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

Biological control: Two-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)

Corms of Two-leaf Cape Tulip germinate after the autumn rains and new corms already begin to form before the flowers appear in late winter and spring. The aerial growth dies by November. New plants flower when 2 to 3 years old. Flowering occurs mostly during late winter and early spring. Cormils can remain dormant for up to 8 years (Animal and Plant Control Commission of SA 2000; Hawkins et al. 2007; Weeds Australia undated).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Two-leaf Cape Tulip is currently most extensive in the southern regions of Australia and is most common in south-western Western Australia. It is also relatively common in south-eastern South Australia and in the western parts of Victoria. Present, but not very common, in other parts of Victoria and in the southern and eastern regions of New South Wales (Navie 2004).

Where does it originate?

Two-leaf Cape Tulip is native to southern Africa (Navie 2004).

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 miniata

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Homeria collina var. miniata F.Muell.
  • Homeria miniata (Andrews) Sweet

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Poison Bulb, Cape Tulip

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