Madeira vine – Anredera cardifolia
Madeira vine is an invasive, South American vine that blankets and smothers trees, shrubs and understory species. It grows prolifically at rates of up to one metre per week and the weight of the vine can cause canopy collapse of mature native trees. It produces large numbers of subterranean and aerial reproductive tubers that persist in the environment and make effective management difficult.
The impacts of Madeira vine can be so severe that it causes irreversible damage to the invaded ecosystem, leading to its categorisation as a transformer species.
Madeira vine is considered one of Australia’s worst environmental weeds and has been listed as a Weed of National Significance.
How does this weed affect you?
Madeira vine is an invasive climber that is native to South America (Bolivia, Paraguay, Uraguay, Southern Brazil and Northern Argentina).
In Australia it has been used as an ornamental plant in gardens, but has become an invasive environmental weed, blanketing and smothering both shrubs and trees. The weight of the vine can cause smaller trees to collapse and die.
Where is it found?
Madeira vine is now widespread and common in coastal, summer-rainfall-dominant areas of NSW, including margins of rainforests. It has also spread to dryer inland areas, and its distribution is increasing.
- NSW (image)
How does it spread?
Madeira vine flowers in summer, and reproduces through the production of thousands of tubers (underground) and bulbils (aerially along the stems). The small light-brown or green potato-like bulbils fall to the ground as vines age. The tubers and the bulbils can remain viable for many years, making control very difficult.
What does it look like?
Madeira vine is a twining vine with wide, fleshy, heart-shaped leaves that are 2 to 15 cm long, and fragrant, cream-coloured flower spikes up to 30 cm long. These spikes resemble a lamb’s tail, hence the alternate common name ‘lamb’s tail’.
What type of environment does it grow in?
Madeira vine thrives in sub-tropical and warm temperate areas. It is partly salt tolerant and has been observed growing over mangroves.
Madeira vine – Weed Management Guide (2011), Weed of National Significance, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Hanley, B (2012), Biological control of Madeira vine, Handout prepared for Primex 2012.
Successful control of Madeira vine requires all the tubers and bulbils to be removed or killed. Control activities are long-term, and require regular follow-up for many years. Single control activities generally cause disturbance that results in vigorous regrowth and can lead to worse infestation levels unless dedicated follow-up occurs.
The leaf feeding beetle, Plectonycha correntina has recently been approved for release in Australia. Both the adult and larval stages feed on the leaves reducing the plant’s photosynthetic ability and depleting the energy stores in the bulbils and tubers.
Releases have occurred in New South Wales and Queensland—and at many of these sites the beetle has established and significant leaf feeding damage has been observed.
The beetles lay small yellow eggs in groups of 8-15 on the undersides of leaves. After 5 days, larvae emerge and start feeding, covering themselves with a sticky, black, gelatine-like substance. After 14 days, they begin to feed alone, leaving their slimy covering behind, and emerging as small white, then butter-yellow grubs (3-4 mm long) with black heads. They then burrow into the topsoil to pupate for another 20 days, and then emerge as adult beetles, able to reproduce 7 days later. Each female can lay an average of 550 eggs.
Beetles should only be used at sites that will not be subject to herbicide treatment or physical removal, and only in flood- and frost-free areas.
For more information about biocontrol for madeira vine contact your local council weeds officer.
Physical removal of Madeira vine is difficult because of the extent of underground tubers and aerial bulbils, but may be practical at smaller or immature infestation sites or as a follow-up measure to remove persistent tubers. Tubers, bulbils and vegetative material must be disposed of appropriately, as they will regrow if they are left in contact with the soil. Cut vines can remain ‘alive’ in the tree canopy for up to two years (surviving on energy from the aerial bulbils). Cutting and pulling the vines from the canopy should be avoided as it results in a shower of viable bulbils. If this is necessary (where there is extreme stress on the host plant), tarpaulins should be laid on the ground to collect as many of the aerial bulbils as possible.