Famine Weed

Famine Weed

Parthenium hysterophorus (Asteraceae)

Common Name:

Famine Weed

Scientific Name:

Parthenium hysterophorus (Asteraceae)

Alternative common names:

Feverfew; congress grass (English), parthenium; Demoina bossie (Afrikaans)


Annual herb growing up to 1,5m high with an erect, longitudinally grooved, hairy stem and deep tap root. It has pale green, hairy leaves and small white flowers in compact heads, appearing from September to May. The whole plant is a skin and respiratory irritant. It invades roadsides, rail sides, water courses, cultivated fields and overgrazed land.
To view famine weed map of the world click the following link: http://www.invasives.org.za/resources/downloadable-resources/finish/70-famine-weed-parthenium-hysterophorus/974-famine-weed-map-of-the-world.html

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

South America and West Indies

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

Existing legislation: CARA 2002 - Category 1 NEMBA - Category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?


How does it spread?

Spread by seeds that can be viable for many years and is browsed by stock

Why is it a problem?

Poses a major health problem and it is a threat to agriculture in South Africa. It inhibits the growth and seed germination of other plants through allelopathy. It suppresses crop yields and contaminates crop seed. Meat from livestock that has eaten the weed is badly tainted and not fit for consumption. The presence of parthenium, which is a nerve depressant, poses a major health hazard. Regular contact with the plant, usually over a prolonged period, produces allergenic dermatitis and asthma in humans. Cattle may also be affected and pass the toxic principle into their milk

What does it look like?

General description: Annual herb growing up to 1,5m high with an erect, longitudinally grooved, hairy stem and a deep tap root.
Leaves: Pale green with some of the hairs containing allergens; rosette and lower stem leaves deeply pinnately lobed, upper stem leaves shorter and less divided.
Flowers: Small white flowers in small compact heads about 3mm across, on slender peduncles in a terminal, open panicle. Flowers from September-May.
Fruit/Seeds: Produce tiny black seeds about 2mm long

Does the plant have any uses?


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