Sphagneticola trilobata

Singapore daisy


Sphagneticola trilobata

(L.) Pruski 1996

pronounced: stag-net-TEE-koh-luh try-low-BAH-tuh

(Asteraceae — the daisy family)

synonym — Wedelia trilobata

(L.) Hitchc. 1893

pronounced: wee-DEE-lee-uh try-low-BAH-tuh

common names: Singapore daisy, creeping daisy, creeping ox-eye

Sphagneticola is derived from the Greek σφαγνος (sphagnos), peat-moss: a moss-dweller; trilobata is from tri-, the Latin prefix for 3, and the Greek λοβος (lobos), the lobe of the ear: having 3 lobes (as do many of the leaves of this species). The plants photographed were in the boggy area by the creek at the southern end of Picnic Bay. There are patches of this weed in many of the Magnetic Island creeks, particularly in Gustav Creek, Nelly Bay. It is not restricted to moist areas, but seems equally suited to dry sites. It is very difficult to control, as it spreads vegetatively.

The plant is native to Mexico, Central America and tropical South America. It was introduced to Australia as an ornamental, and was deliberately planted as a roadside and railway embankment stabilizer in Queensland. It is now common along the tropical and sub-tropical coast of Queensland, and spreading in coastal areas of NSW, the Northern Territory, and the north coastal areas of Western Australia. It competes with native groundcover species, and often forms dense infestations, especially along disturbed areas of rainforest. It has also become naturalized, and a serious weed, in Florida, Malaysia, and on many of the Pacific islands.

This is a creeping, mat-forming perennial herb with rounded stems that root at the nodes. These stems vary from hairy to almost hairless, and somewhat succulent, up to 2 m long. The plant often creates a dense ground cover (usually 15-30 cm tall, but sometimes up to 70 cm) that crowds out the growth of other species. It may also climb a short distance up trees, or other vegetation.

The leaves are fleshy, ovate to obovate and irregularly toothed, often with 3 or more lobes; they are opposite, sessile or with small winged petioles extending on to the blades, strongly veined, and up to 11 cm long and 6 cm wide. The leaf tips are rounded to acute.

The bright yellow to orange-yellow daisy-like flowerheads are to 3.5 cm wide, borne singly on the end of each stem. Each flowerhead has 8 - 13 ray florets up to 1.5 cm long with finely toothed tips.

The fruits are strongly biconvex, 3-4 angled, with beaked tips. The ‘seeds’ (i.e. achenes), when present, are 4-5 mm long with a pappus of short fringed scales. They are brown, elongated in shape, with a rough surface texture; but in Australia at least, very few seeds reach maturity, either in cultivated or naturalized plants. The plants are spread by the rooting of stem fragments when the nodes come into contact with the ground. Such segments are commonly spread in dumped garden waste, by mowing and slashing, and by water in times of flood.

This weed has very serious invasive potential. Herbarium records here in Australia document its spread at an amazing 2500 km in 15 years (Batianoff and Franks 1997). It is considered one of the “100 World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species”.


Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2013
Page last updated 7th April 2019