This is an erect perennial shrub which usually grows to 1 metre (rarely to 4 metres tall) with a thick, sappy stem.
Leaves and stems are covered with coarse, sticky, brown hairs. Young leaves are purple, sticky and divided into 3 rounded lobes. Older leaves are bright green, about 10 centimetres wide with up to 5 lobes. Leaves are arranged on alternate areas of the stem. It is often confused with castor oil plant which is usually taller and has larger leaves, with more lobes (7 to 9) which are much more pointed.
Flowers are small, purple-red with yellow centres, clustered on stalks in leaf axils of upper foliage. It flowers all year round.
Fruit capsules are smooth, 3 lobed and oval shaped, about 12 millimetres across with 3 to 4 seeds.
Habitat It can be found on degraded lands, river banks and roadsides.
Weed characteristics is its competitive nature. It chokes native vegetation and smothers pasture growth. It takes over extensive sections of river frontage, reducing biodiversity and increasing mustering costs. Fruit is poisonous to humans and animals.
Dispersal seeds are spread by water.
This species is a Class 2 declared plant under Queensland legislation.
How to act
Bellyache bush is easily treated by foliar spraying with the need to basal bark larger trees. Slashing or mechanical removal can assist with initial control of dense infestations. However as it is able to regrow from broken branches a combination of mechanical, fire and chemical methods is recommended. Fire can be highly effective where there is sufficient grass to carry a fire. Physical removal of individual plants or small infestation can be effective when care is taken that all plant material is removed.
Refer to Weed Control Methods.
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