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Take action on moth plant

Updated: Feb 8

Chances are that wild ‘choko’ plant you’ve seen on the fence or climbing up a tree, isn’t a choko at all, but highly invasive moth plant.


Moth plant is one of Northland’s most noxious plants - and it is getting its roots into Maungatapere. Left uncontrolled, it can smother native plants, cause issues in orchards and shelter belts, and take over forest canopies making it a huge risk for Maungatapere Mountain and nearby Pukenui Forest. Something you can do to help protect our native bush and Maungatapere Mountain is to help destroy moth plant in our community.

Controlling it early (before it produces seed pods) can save work - and native forests.

What does it look like?

It’s a woody vine that can grow up to 10 metres high and smothers native plants and trees. It has a milky, white sap and produces large choko-like seed pods that dry and split, releasing about 750 parachute-like seeds per pod. The wind spreads those seeds and so the invasion continues.

Destroy the pods

While it’s best to deal with moth plant before it produces seed pods, so late summer-early autumn is the easiest time of year to find it as the pods are easy to spot.

Cut those pods off before they open and dispose of them properly. Even cut off the plant they will continue to ripen and burst open releasing hundreds and hundreds of seeds, so they need to be disposed of properly: at refuse transfer station, put in a bag into the rubbish, burnt or buried deeply.

Control methods The plants need to be pulled out by the roots or they will regrow. You can cut the vines at ground level, but need to use a herbicide to stop them regrowing.

  • Destroy ripe pods first to minimise seeding.

  • Pull up seedlings (all year round)

  • Stump swab: Cut down and stump-treat larger stems with 200mls Banvine® per 1 litre water or 100mls Brushkiller per 1 litre water or Metgel

  • Clear off desirable trees and spray carefully with 120mls Banvine® per 10 litres water or 120mls Brushkiller per 10 litres water or 5g metsulfuron-methyl (600 g/kg e.g. Escort®) + 10mls penetrant per 10 litres water. Spraying of pods with this product appears to kill seeds as well.

What can I do to stop it coming back?

Stumps resprout, so they need to be sprayed if you can’t get all the roots out. Ground areas left bare reseed profusely, so you need to follow up six monthly. It is recommended you replant bare spots.


The milky white sap of this plant can cause a painful dermatitis and irritate eyes, so be careful when removing them and wear gloves, protective clothing and consider eye protection.

For more advice on controlling moth plant and other herbicide options, check out Northland Regional Council’s Pest Hub. Information thanks to Weedbusters and Northland Regional Council. Images thanks to Carolyn Lewis, Weedbusters



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