Moth Plant

Latin Name: Araujia sericifera

Flowers image by Gabriela Ruellan

Flowers image by Gabriela Ruellan

Origin: Paraguay, Uruguay,
S Brazil and NE Argentina

Alternative Name(s): Araujia hortorum, Moth vine

Family: Asclepiadaceae.

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Sandy sea shores.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 0 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Perennial climber with twining stems, climbing to 6 m on supporting vegetation. Leaves oblong to triangular, 3–11 cm long, 1–6 cm wide, base of midrib on upper surface with finger-like small glands; base at right-angles to leaf stalk that is 0.5–4 cm long. Fruit a blue-green pod initially, turning brown and woody with age, splitting to release seeds. Seeds black, numerous, about 4 mm long and ending in a tuft of white silky hairs about 2.5 cm long.
Flowers: White to pale pink in groups of 2–5 in axils of leaves. Flower perfumed, tubular, 0.8–1.4 cm long, 5-lobed, stamens 5. Flowers late spring to autumn.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies).

Infestation by the Nepean River, NSW

Infestation by the Nepean River, NSW

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by twining habit; milky latex exuded from damaged stems and leaves; leaves opposite, upper surface green with scattered hairs, lower surface blue-green with very short dense covering of hairs and pearshaped fruit 6–12 cm long and 3–7 cm wide.

Dispersal: Spread by wind-blown seeds.

Edible Uses

Fruit – after preparation. No further details are given but the fruit is a long grooved pod 12.5 x 7.5cm, tapering to a fascicle of hairs 2.5cm long.

 

Medicinal Uses

In folk medicine, an infusion made from the leaves and fruits, and a decoction from the roots, are drunk by nursing women in order to increase milk secretion (latex from the plant contains the ‘lab’ ferment). The infusion is drunk immediately; the decoction is often added to the water
for brewing maté. The latex is used as a mouthwash to relieve toothache or to encourage the falling off of teeth (antiodontalgic). In order to stop the spreading of venom, in cases of snakebite, it is recommended to employ the stalks to make tourniquets (Martínez-Crovetto, 1981)

moth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Uses

It is cultivated as an ornamental because of its showy flowers and extended blooming period; it’s easily propagated from seeds and cuttings. The ripe fruits have been cited as edible, being relished by children (Ragonese et Martínez Crovetto, 1947). According to Hieronymus (1930), the Pajagua indians from Paraguay (the Guarani name [for the plant] ‘pajagua tembi’u’ means ‘food of the Pajagua’) eat the fruits after roasting them.

Notes: Garden escape. Climber that smothers shrubs and small trees, depressing their growth. Weed of wasteland and forests adjoining settlement mainly in coastal higher rainfall areas.

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